‘The Teacher’ tipped for Karlovy Vary film festival award winners

‘The Teacher’, photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

The 51st edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is slowly drawing to a close, with the eight-day event due to climax with a glitzy awards ceremony on Saturday evening. What films are being tipped for the top prizes at the country’s biggest film event? And how has this year’s Karlovy Vary been in general? I put those questions to Ian Willoughby, who is at the festival in West Bohemia.

‘The Teacher’, photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“I haven’t seen all 12 films in the main competition but my impression is that it is unusually strong this year. There has been a lot of interest in ‘The Teacher’ by Czech director Jan Hřebejk, which I thought was excellent. It captures social relations in late communist Czechoslovakia, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if ‘The Teacher’ picked up some awards on Saturday night, perhaps for its actors, who were very good indeed.

“Another contender for prizes could be the Romanian film ‘By the Rails’, which many people are talking about, or the German movie ‘Original Bliss’, which features two great contemporary German actors, Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Tukur.

“And one of my own favorites in this category was the Canadian film ‘We’re Still Together’, a very powerful drama, which had its world premiere here on Thursday night.”

Who have been the big stars there in Karlovy Vary this year?

Willem Dafoe, photo: CTK
“The biggest star has been the US actor Willem Dafoe who picked up the most prestigious prize in Karlovy Vary, the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema.

“Willem Dafoe is perhaps not as well-known as some of the main stars in recent years, such as Mel Gibson or Richard Gere, but I think he did make a very positive impression. He interacted with the public quite a bit and he made a short but well-received speech when he got the award.

“We also had Jean Reno, the French movie star, who got the festival’s president’s prize. However, he wasn’t here very long so perhaps he didn’t really make as much of an impression on the festival.

“But actually the biggest cheer I heard at the whole festival was when the ice hockey star Jaromír Jágr arrived in a limousine with his girlfriend for the opening ceremony - the whole crowd went wild.”

Jean Reno, photo: CTK
Otherwise, how has this edition of the Karlovy Vary international film festival been, generally speaking?

“On the whole, I would say it has been a good year for the festival. Last year was the 50th edition of Karlovy Vary, so there was quite a big brouhaha over that. But this year it has been back to business as usual.

“As ever, it has been attended by thousands of mainly young people, who would sleep in any kind of accommodation just to be here. And as always, it’s a big social event – sometimes it feels like half of Prague is here during the festival.

“It also feels like half the cabinet has been here, personally I think I have seen at least five members of the government. And we have also had the famous VIP parties going on, with a lot of big companies hosting these high-class events.

Photo: Eva Turečková
“But as ever there has also been plenty going on for ordinary people, including the opening night. There was a free classical concert of film music in front of the festival center, the hotel Thermal.

“It attracted thousands of people and I would say that it was maybe the best accompanying event I have experienced in about 15 years of coming here to Karlovy Vary.”