Sherrybaby takes Crystal Globe, Vaclav Havel presents documentary project at Karlovy Vary film festival

Photo: CTK

The 41st Karlovy Vary International Film Festival came to an end on Saturday and its organisers certainly have cause for celebration. By Wednesday, the number of accredited visitors had surpassed that for the entire festival last year. Overall close to 136,000 viewers attended the screenings of 268 feature films and documentaries.

This year's holder of the Crystal Globe - a 20,000 US dollar Grand Prix - was the US film Sherrybaby by director Laurie Collyer, who was especially happy about the award as her past works have only been documentary films:

"I think I'm going to stick with feature films for a while. When you're directing actors, it's very upfront. You have your job, they have their job, and everyone is getting paid. When you are directing documentary subjects, they don't know what you're doing, you don't really want to tell them, and nobody is getting paid."

Sherrybaby tells the story of former drug addict Sherry Swanson, who returns home to New Jersey after serving a three year prison sentence for robbery. Though she tries hard to re-establish a relationship with her young daughter she is soon forced to realise that the world she left behind is difficult to return to. Laurie Collyer:

Sherrybaby
"I did do two years of research with convicts and ex-convicts. I knew someone from one of my documentaries who between the age of 14 and 30 years spent only 8 months on the street. So, he was a very good source of information about what this system can do to a person."

Sherrybaby's Maggie Gyllenhaal, who played the leading role, also won the Best Actress Award. The Best Actor award went to Andrzej Hudziak for his role in the Polish film Several People, Little Time. The Best Director award went to Norwegian director Joachim Trier, for whom the film Reprise was also his debut feature. It tells the story of two good friends who both become writers and struggle with their success after their books get published.

Robert K. Shaye, photo: CTK
But three great names in the world of film were also awarded for their Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema. We already featured Andy Garcia, who was honoured during the festival's opening ceremony. The Czech filmmaker Jan Nemec and US film producer and director Robert K. Shaye received the awards on Saturday. Mr Shaye, who has produced big films like the Lord of the Rings, for example, tells us his ties to the Czech world of cinema go back a very long time:

"This was at a time when we didn't have any money so I couldn't buy movies. But the Czechoslovak film export association made a deal with me to give them 50 percent of all the money that I can earn from the films and they were two Czech films - one by Jan Nemec and one by a very fine director named Jan Smid and those were the two first films that we ever distributed. It was 39 years ago, a long time ago and before many of you were born, and I think of those films with great fondness and also with incredible aesthetic and excellent skill and I'm very proud that Czech movies started our company on its path."

But besides finished projects, the Karlovy Vary Film Festival also served as a place for discussion on future productions. The renowned Czech film director Pavel Koutecky spent thirteen years collecting footage of former Czech President Vaclav Havel to make a documentary called Obcan V.H. or Citizen V.H. Pavel Koutecky accompanied Vaclav Havel through his political and private life and documented over one hundred events. But earlier this year, Mr Koutecky tragically passed away. Here's how Vaclav Havel remembers the days when Mr Koutecky followed him with his camera:

"Whenever he thought that the event he was filming was no longer interesting he always put the camera on standby. That was a sign that we are no longer making sense and saying things that aren't worth documenting. So, that's when I knew to lead the discussion to the next point."

Vaclav Havel and Miroslav Janek, photo: CTK
Miroslav Janek is to follow in Mr Koutecky's footsteps and finish the documentary film. He worked on documentaries in the United States from 1980 to 1995 before he returned to Prague and has participated in the makings of films like Godfrey Reggio's Powaqqatsi and Anima Mundi.

Mr Janek will be working with 45 hours of film and digital video. The film will include welcoming ceremonies at Prague Castle, preparations for Bill Clinton's visit to Prague as well as the former US president's improvised saxophone concert at Prague's Reduta jazz club, and unique behind-the-scene shots of Vaclav Havel's trips abroad. One of them is this clip of Mr Havel before a trip to Saudi Arabia:

Vaclav Havel filmed by Pavel Koutecky (right) and Stano Slusny, photo: Michal Hladik
"I hope I won't make a faux-pas, laugh at the wrong moment, shake someone's hand before I should, and have them shoot me for it. Please don't translate anything that you think is inappropriate."

The feature film length documentary is expected to be released in the Czech Republic at the fall of next year and abroad by the beginning of 2008 at the latest. Four 60-minute films with corresponding themes will also be made for broadcast on Czech television. Pavel Koutecky's original negatives will be preserved at the National Film Archives.

For a complete list of awards please visit the festival's official website: www.kviff.com