Highlights from the 53rd Zlín International Film Festival

'Now is good', photo: archive of the Zlín Film Festival

News from the finale of the 53rd Zlín International Film Festival last weekend was largely dampened by fears of devastating floods in other parts of the country. Now that the flood-waters have begun to recede, and life slowly begins getting back to normal, we take a last look back at this year’s fest – including the film that won and an annual festival-related auction.

Photo: archive of the Zlín Film Festival
The festival’s programme director Jaroslava Hynštová told me more about this year’s inception.

“I think that we had a very successful year. When you see what weather we had, it could have been much worse. There was no flooding in Moravia but we had only a single day without rain. On the other hand, maybe all the rain helped fill the cinemas and not turn them away. It’s a bit of both. Many people who visited were very satisfied with the festival and the overall atmosphere. Some 90,000 people attended this year.”

Your festival is different in that it focuses to a large degree on children and youth...

“Abroad that is what we are primarily known for but I think that we have broken some new ground. Increasingly we want to be a family-oriented festival, and we are also a university town, so we are increasing the number of films and sections suitable for older viewers. Our aim is to offer a broader variety of films than some of the other top festivals.”

The big winner at this year’s festival was a British film called Now is Good; could you tell me a bit about that and the audience’s reaction?

Jaroslava Hynštová,  photo: archive of the Zlín Film Festival
“Certainly. Before I do, let me describe a bit of the process: in general we try to select films for competition that have not been seen often at other festivals. Now is Good is one of them. I learned about it last year at the Berlinale film market last year and saw that it wasn’t getting much circulation at other festivals. It wasn’t released in the Czech Republic at all. So it was quite a discovery for us and it won three awards this year.

“It is a small, special, independent film which starts Dakota Fanning who gives the performance of her life. It is the story of a teenager who is terminally ill and decides to stop treatment and to spend her last days as she wishes. It is a very touching story and even if it is sad, it really found its way into viewers’ hearts and hopefully it will find its way into Czech distribution.”

Does success in your festival make it easier for some films to get into circulation or to be broadcast on television?

“It can. Every year, there are people from Czech TV who consider films, often children’s films and some are shown on TV eventually. As for cinemas, we often get the word out about some movies that are bought elsewhere and screened abroad, for example on the Belgian market. So we do our part to at least help there.”

'Now is good',  photo: archive of the Zlín Film Festival
A long tradition at Zlín is the paining on film clapperboards by artists which are then auctioned off: what were some of the successes this year?

“The clapperboard auction has now seen 16 editions and this year we sold many clapperboards once again with the highest bid going to one painted with the Little Mole, created by the late Zdeněk Miler, only done by his daughter. That went for 70,000 crowns and overall 1.3 million crowns were raised. Those funds go towards helping young filmmakers and new film projects.”

What are your feelings as an organiser when the last film can has been returned and the last guest has departed? Is it a case of mixed emotions?

The Little Mole clapperboard,  photo: archive of the Zlín Film Festival
“It very much is. WE always have to take a deep breath and some time off to then reflect on how we did and eventually meet to discuss what was successful, where mistakes were made, what needed to be done better. This was my ninth edition and I can tell you it was the toughest. There were some problems behind the scenes but then all festivals suffer difficulties. The main thing is that they are contained: visitors are never aware of them. That is very important. So now we will have some time off and come back after the summer and begin touring festivals again and planning. But we are slowly already putting things together now for next year, which we know will feature a section on Polish cinema. We are making contacts, considering guests, and so on. The job lasts more than just a few months a year!”