Karlovy Vary "Geres up'' for 50th film festival

Photo: CTK

The Czech Republic’s, and probably Central Europe’s, premier international film festival gets underway in the country’s biggest spa town, Karlovy Vary, on Friday. And this year’s festival promises to be something special as the big 50 is celebrated.

Photo: CTK
Radio Prague’s Ian Willoughby is a long-time film festivalgoer and was on the spot Friday to describe what can be expected this year. I asked him what would be the highlights of the opening weekend.

“The opening weekend should be dominated by the US movie star Richard Gere. On Friday night he is presenting his new film ‘Time Out Of Mind’ at the opening ceremony of the festival at the Grand Hall of the Hotel Thermal here in Karlovy Vary. And there he is also going to receive the festival’s biggest award, that is the Crystal Globe For Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema. On Saturday night he is going to appear at the outdoor summer cinema in the town and present to the public probably the biggest movie of his career ‘Pretty Woman.’ And then on Sunday he is back here at Thermal with another new film called ‘Franny.’ So every year there is usually one big Hollywood star here, and this year it is very much Richard Gere.”

Who are the other special guests this year?

Richard Gere,  photo: CTK
“The American actress Jena Malone is also arriving on Friday. She is the co-star of ‘Time Out of Mind.’ And then on Thursday, later on in the festival, the young Northern Irish actor, Jamie Dornan is coming. He is the male lead in the huge hit film ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and he is coming during a one day break in filming of his new film ‘Anthropoid.’ That is about the assassination of [Reinhard] Heydrich. They are making that in the Czech Republic. And the great US actor Harvey Keitel is coming back to Karlovy Vary with his new film ‘Youth’ by the Italian director Paolo Sorrentino. That was one of the biggest hits recently at the Cannes Festival. And as well as those big names, there will be scores of other less known filmmakers here presenting their work and I would expect at least some of those films to make an impact internationally in the next year or so."

What about Czech films – are there any particular ones to watch out for?

‘The Snake Brothers’,  photo: Falcon
"Actually, there are a few. There are two in the main competition this year. The first is ‘The Snake Brothers,’ which already has got a cinema release. And also another film called ‘Home Care’ which is being premiered here. It is by a first time director Slávac Horák and it is about a couple whose lives are turned upside down by an unexpected event. And Horák is one of many debut directors in the main competition, there is a really striking number of debut filmmakers. But just getting back to the Czech films, many people will be interested in the new documentary ‘Mallory’ by Helena Třeštíková. As is typical of her, this is a film made over many years about someone on the margins of society but this time it, apparently, has a happy ending, unlike many of her documentaries."

And with the 50th anniversary, are they doing anything special to celebrate?

Photo: CTK
"Yes, the catchphrase this year is ‘starring you,’ ‘you’ meaning the audience. And on Friday night instead of the usual fancy opening party at the upscale Hotel Pupp, there are a lot of events around the central festival hotel, Thermal, and, apparently, any members of the public can turn up wearing bow ties and they can win some sort of prize. The idea is that the ordinary members of the public can become celebrities. Also tonight there is a free concert by the rock band Lucie, right in front of the Thermal. They are a huge band, a sort of Czech R.E.M, and that is definitely going to be a big event tonight."