Postponed till 2021, Karlovy Vary brings mini festival to screens around country from Friday

A small version of the red carpet at the Karlovy Vary Thermal Hotel draws attention to the canceled film festival, photo: ČTK/Slavomír Kubeš

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival may not be taking place this year, but its organisers have put together a showcase of 16 films to be screened at nearly 100 Czech cinemas on the dates when it was originally scheduled. What’s more, KVIFF At Your Cinema will be launched on Friday at the Grand Hall of Hotel Thermal, the chief venue of the annual celebration of cinema. I discussed the choice of films, and more, with KVIFF’s artistic director Karel Och.

Karel Och,  photo: Eva Turečková

“We decided to work with the titles that we had already selected for the festival.

“Another decision was to prolong the life of films which were launched towards the end of last year and especially in January at the Sundance Film Festival and in February at the Berlinale, which was the last significant festival, or the last festival in general, which happened in a classical way.

“So the idea to help the filmmakers and the films to be seen more than just at the premieres was the main criterion.

“And considering the fact that we are leaving Karlovy Vary and are going to 80 cities, in which many of the potential spectators have never been to Karlovy Vary, we thought we should really focus on films that connect with the audience.

“That doesn’t mean that we are going against our taste. We have films of different genres, even sometimes unusual genres, but the idea of creating a connection between film and the Karlovy Vary film festival and the audience on the other side, from Cheb to Frýdek-Místek, the entire country, was the main one.”

You mention that the event is going to cinemas all over the Czech Republic. But I understand also that on Friday you’re launching KVIFF at Your Cinema in Karlovy Vary itself. Can you tell us something about that, please?

“Indeed. We couldn’t avoid going to Karlovy Vary.

“Basically, we’re just too strongly connected to the place. We’re so happy and so lucky to have Karlovy Vary, since the 1940s.

“And the idea of not going to Karlovy Vary in early July or late June was just unacceptable.

KVIFF 2019,  photo: Ondřej Tomšů | Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

“Karlovy Vary as a city – not as the place of the festival, but as a city – is participating in KVIFF At Your Cinema, and the Grand Hall and Kino Čas will both screen the entire selection, so we decided to bring the entire team, plus our faithful partners and sponsors, and to launch it in a smaller but very, let’s say, proud manner.

“Why? Because we just want to spend a few days there. Also because it’s in the Karlovy Vary Region, which is very supportive of the festival.

“So we won’t only be in Karlovy Vary on Friday – we will travel to other cities of the Karlovy Vary Region, such as Cheb and Sokolov, where we will be introducing the films.

“And that afterwards will become sort of a way to spend the entire event.

“Out of 96 cinemas, we will cover no less than 41 with personal introductions by all the members of the programming team, but also from the executive director, Kryštof Mucha, and in Brno and in Jihlava, even Mr. Jiří Bartoška, the president of the festival, will be introducing films. So it’s quite special.”

The next Karlovy Vary proper will of course be a year from now. But are you planning anything between now and then, between this KVIFF At Your Cinema and the actual KVIFF next July?

“There are discussions being led which concern exactly your question. And I’m pretty sure we will have something to announce quite soon, yes.”

Last week I spoke to two people who go to Vary every year and they had differing views about how it would look next year. One person said it would be exactly the same as in 2019, the other said it would be very different. How do you think it will look at Karlovy Vary in July 2021?

“Well, as far as we are concerned, we will do our best – and within the possibilities, obviously – so that it looks like all the previous editions.

“But of course it will depend on the global situation. Together with my colleagues from film festivals around the world, we talk a lot via Zoom or Skype about this. Especially our colleagues whose festivals are coming up during the autumn, which probably will be partially online, partially on-site – physical events. We talk about the security measures, etc.

KVIFF 2019,  photo: Alexandra Baranova

“We’ll have to see, because the situation is changing. Obviously it will depend on a vaccine and on the application of an eventual vaccine.

“I’m sure there will be some security measures necessary to respect, but we’ll have to see to what extent – if it’s just the fact that we’ll be randomly measuring temperatures at the entrance of the cinema...

“You know, we’ll do everything that is necessary to create a festival, of course respecting these things.

“If there is a small limitation for the audience, which will not reduce the number of people in the hall – [a restriction] which is almost gone now – or reduce the possibility to gather to discuss the films in the streets or in the pubs, which is one of the main elements of festival, then for us it will be the same.”