Stars and fans gather for the 48th Karlovy Vary Film Festival

Photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival kicks off on Friday night in the West Bohemian spa town. This year’s festival, the 48th, will give audiences the chance to catch hundreds of movies they would never otherwise get to see on the big screen, while fans can also look forward to seeing some big stars on the red carpet. Ahead of the gala opening, Ian Willoughby, who is there, told us what is happening at the moment.

John Travolta in 'Killing Season',  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“Right now, the final preparations are taking place before tonight’s gala opening, which in some ways is the main event here at the Karlovy Vary festival. And it will see in a way the biggest star of this 48th year of the festival – the Hollywood A-lister John Travolta, who people, of course, will know from films like Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction. He is getting a Crystal Globe for lifetime contribution to world cinema.

“Unfortunately, the other star who was meant to be coming, the French actress Audrey Tautou, pulled out at the last minute. She’s known as the star of Amelie, which, by the way, won the main competition here in 2001.But her new film [Mood Indigo] is going to be here and it’s being introduced by its director, the French director Michel Gondry.

'Mood Indigo',  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“Otherwise, later on in the festival, the biggest name probably will be the controversial American director Oliver Stone. He is coming at the end of the festival and will also get a lifetime achievement award.”

Even without Audrey Tautou that sounds like an exciting line-up. What about the films? Which films will be part of the main competition?

“There are 14 pictures in the main competition, including the latest film by the Czech director Jan Hřebejk. It’s called Libánky, or Honeymoon, although apparently it’s actually about a wedding ceremony that’s interrupted by some kind of an interloper. And many people will be glad to see a Czech film in the competition, because some years there aren’t any and that’s also regarded as a poor reflection on the local film industry.

Agnieszka Holland,  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“And many people that I know are excited about another competition film called A Field in England by Ben Wheatley, an English director, and he is perhaps best known for Kill List. By the way, the head of the main jury this year is Agnieszka Holland, the well-known Polish director who studied in Prague in the late 1960’s.

“Otherwise, there is a lot of interest in the East of the West section, which shows films from former Eastern Block. Karlovy Vary very much profiles itself as a kind of bridge between western and eastern cinema. And that section usually has some interesting films. And the closing film looks like being a big hit; it’s Behind the Candelabra. It was a big hit at Cannes. As people may know already, it is a biopic of Liberace starring Michael Douglas.”

What about other events beside the films? What can visitors looking forward to at the festival?

Michel Gondry,  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“Well, there are always many things going on. One thing that’s happening this year again is what they call ‘master classes’. And they are very interesting events, where ordinary film fans can go along and discuss filmmaking with the professionals. This year there are a number of them, including one tomorrow with Michel Gondry. And he is very popular, I think, among young Czech people for movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And I think that master class will be very much oversubscribed.

“Oliver Stone is also giving a master class. There will be many industry panels, that kind of thing, which are closed to the general public and are just for industry people. Of course, as every year, there will be many VIP parties. And lots of events for ordinary visitors, as well.

“One thing, also, I could mention is many people are excited to see the festival trailer. Most years it features one of the previous year’s stars, so this year’s trailer will feature Helen Mirren. No one has seen it yet; it will be seen for the first time tonight. And I think many people are excited to see what that will look like.”