New Czech Cinema at Forefront of Plzen Film Festival


The city of Plzen is renowned for its world famous beer, Pilsner Urquell. But the Czech city also has a cultural side. In a matter of days, film directors, actors and critics will flock to the city for its annual film festival - Finale Plzen. The festival has a long history dating back to 1968, when it was banned by the Communist regime. But it's been running steadily since 1989 and is in its 18th season. Kate Barrette met up with festival organizers at their headquarters in Plzen.

That's dialogue from Borkur Gunnarsson's film "Silny Cafe," or "Bitter Coffee," one of the many films on offer at Finale Plzen, a Czech film festival which begins on April 25. Programme director Jan Kastner says that just like a character in one of the festival's films, he too feels like he's got a 'Shark in his Head,' with so much still left to do before the festival begins. The last several weeks have been very busy for the festival team, which is based in a small office in the centre of Plzen, just off the city's main square in Dominikanska Street.

'Shark in the Head'
Jana Kudelova is part of the team preparing the festival. She talked about why Finale Plzen is different from other Czech film festivals.

"What is important is that it is the only festival which is combining both documentaries and Czech feature films. The festival offers a complete overview of all newly made Czech films and documentaries."

The festival is also unusual because it allows Czech film makers and Czech film lovers to interact. Jan Kastner:

"For us it's important that the festival is a meeting point for all people which make Czech film, and offers them opportunities to speak about their films with viewers."

'Bitter Coffee'
The festival includes post-film discussions with film makers, in which directors get feedback from viewers and in which the two can discuss the films. There are also a series of lectures and forums on a variety of subjects, from Czech film in exile to a special retrospective on Czech screenwriter Vladimir Korner, who will attend and participate in the forum.

The festival takes place in five different cinemas in Plzen, which, organizers say, they won't have any problem filling:

"Elektra cinema (where the competition feature films are screened), is the biggest cinema hall with a capacity of 700 seats, so usually the competition feature films are sold out. So, there is a full cinema of 700 viewers for the competition films, and sometimes we even have to add screenings because people very much like to go and see these films and meet the film makers."

Finale Plzen runs from April 25 until May 1st. You can find out more details on the festival's web site: