KVIFF programme chief’s tips: Swiss Army Man, People Next Door section and restored Intimate Lighting

'Swiss Army Man', photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

Who better to ask for tips about this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival than its artistic director Karel Och? On the eve of the biggest movie event of the year in the Czech Republic, I caught up with its head of programming – and began by asking him if there were any particularly noteworthy special sections this year.

“I would like to mention a very new section called People Next Door, which consists of seven films on the topic of disabled people.

“I think that it’s going to be a very popular section. Some of the films that we are showing in this section are The Art of Negative Thinking and Hasta la Vista [Come as You Are], two major audience darlings of previous years.

“I’d also like to mention Hal Ashby’s Coming Home, or the documentary about disabled rugby players Murderball.

“This is a new and very exciting programme.”

I’m sure that you’ll tell me that they’re all great films, but if somebody was going to Vary and could only see one movie, what would you recommend?

“I hate this kind of question. But of course there are plenty of films which we love.

“I strongly remember my sensation from the world premiere of Swiss Army Man, a very particular, offbeat comedy coming from the United States and directed by the directorial duo Daniels, who are very well known for music videos such as Turn Down For What, which is very famous and had 500 million clicks on YouTube.

'Swiss Army Man',  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“This is a film with Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe playing two very strange, unusual friends. But it’s a beautiful, Gondryesque film which is very melancholic.

“I expect a huge audience reaction. We will screen this film several times and the main screening with the directors will be on Friday 8 July.”

Some of the big names who are coming this year are Willem Dafoe and Charlie Kaufman. But from the programming department perspective, who are you particularly looking forward to seeing?

“I look forward to seeing Ulrich Tukur, who is a German actor known from The Lives of Others, or White Ribbon by Michael Haneke.

“Ulrich is coming with the director and the producers to introduce the competition film Original Bliss, a very unusual psychological romance where he plays alongside Martina Gedeck, another star of German cinema.

Willem Dafoe,  photo: Brad Trent,  source: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“But the beautiful aspect of both personalities you mentioned, both Willem Dafoe and Charlie Kaufman, is that I believe everyone is happy about their visit, including the programme department.

“I’m very excited because these two guys have succeeded in collaborating on amazing films which are popular among the whole range of audiences – both intellectual and, let’s say, the large audience. So we’re just really happy about both.”

In recent years you have shown every year a restored Czech classic film. What will it be this year?

“This year, as usual on Saturday at 2 pm in the Grand Hall of Hotel Thermal, will be the world premiere of the brand new restoration of Intimate Lighting by Ivan Passer.

'Intimate Lighting',  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“It’s a film which is hugely popular – almost a cult film – especially in foreign countries, by Ivan Passer with amazing camera work by the recently deceased Miroslav Ondříček.

“It’s a dream come true because it hasn’t been easy to finish this restoration. But thanks to our long-term partners Nadace české bijáky, the National Film Archive, UPP and Soundsquare, the post-production studios, we can create this magic moment.”

French actor Jean Reno was also announced as a guest at the 51st Karlovy Vary IFF after the recording of this interview.