Karlovy Vary promises two Czech main competition films, Dubček doc

The organisers of the Karlovy Vary film festival have just unveiled its two competitions, a month before the 57th edition starts. The main Crystal Globe competition will have one fewer entry than usual, after the Chinese authorities intervened. But local cinema fans will be excited to hear there are two Czech films in the running, We Have Never Been Modern and A Sensitive Person. I asked Karlovy Vary’s artistic director Karel Och about them.

Karel Och | Photo: René Volfík,  iROZHLAS.cz

“We Have Never Been Modern is the English title of the second feature film by Matěj Chlupáček, who is an extremely young but already established filmmaker; he’s not even 30 yet.

“He is the author of this very self-assured period drama set in 1937.

“It is a, let’s say, detective drama. There’s a very strong suspense moment in the movie, which is gorgeously shot.

“The main character is a woman who is about to give birth to a child. She’s the wife of the director of the factory where a stillborn child is found.

“An investigation is established and the main character, Helena, also does her own investigation.

“The film is elaborating a rather controversial theme which was not only controversial in the time when the film takes place but nowadays as well.”

Úsvit (2023) CZ HD teaser trailer

What is the second Czech film, A Sensitive Person?

“A Sensitive Person is the name the acclaimed novel by Jachým Topol, one of the most remarkable contemporary Czech writers.

“Tomáš Klein is the name of the debuting filmmaker who adapted this novel for film.

“It’s a dark grotesque which describes a rather difficulty odyssey of one family coming back home.

“They are vagabond artists and they have to go through all kinds of different obstacles on their way home.”

CITLIVÝ ČLOVĚK (2023) - oficiální trailer

Also what caught my eye is the fact there is a [out of competition] documentary about Alexander Dubček.

“Oh yes. It’s a film which we expect to be very popular, because Alexander Dubček was a very popular politician.

“He was very controversial as well.

Všichni lidé budou bratři [All Men Become Brothers] is the name of this film.

“It’s not just a regular portrait documentary. It’s a film which gives a very strong statement towards something which we could call the Dubček Phenomenon.

“That is, a type of politician who meant well, who was extremely progressive – but in a very difficult time – and he became in a way, some would say, a victim of circumstances in August 1968, when Soviet troops and other troops invaded Czechoslovakia.

“We know what happened with Dubček after 1990, when he came back.

“It’s really a fascinating film which offers a lot of insights into less known parts of the life of Alexander Dubček.”

Alexander Dubček | Photo: ČT24

Getting back to the main competition, usually there are 12 films – but this year there will be one fewer.

“There were 12 until last Friday, when unfortunately we were asked by the Chinese film in the competition [Clap Your Hands] to cancel its presentation.

“It’s a direct order of the Chinese government, which banned any presentation of any Chinese films in the Czech Republic.

“This was explained as a consequence of the worsened relationship between China and the Czech Republic.”