Thousands attend Uherske Hradiste Summer Film School

Uherske Hradiste Summer Film School

This year's Summer Film School in the Moravian town of Uherske Hradiste had a distinctly Irish theme, showing a retrospective of over 40 movies and also hosting a number of accompanying events related to the Emerald Isle. Besides Irish films, visitors to the film school could attend workshops with Irish directors such as Alan Gilsenan and concerts by well known Irish musicians like Glen Hansard.

Uherske Hradiste Summer Film School
The Uherske Hradiste Film School began over forty years ago, when a group of friends met one summer to watch films and discuss cinematography. It has since become a major event, which attracts thousands of visitors every year and shows films in 11 theatres throughout the town. Participants at the school in recent years have included such cinematic luminaries such as Terry Gilliam and Peter Greenaway.

Despite the increasingly high-profile nature of the Uherske Hradiste film school, its director Jiri Kralik is reluctant to draw comparisons between this event and other major film happenings in this country such as the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. He says that in spite of its burgeoning popularity, there are still many differences between the Uherske Hradiste film school and its glitzy, star-studded counterpart in Karlovy Vary.

The informal, relaxed nature of the film school compared with high-powered events such as the Karlovy Vary film festival is something many of those in Uherske Hradiste cite as one of the film school's main attractions when asked what brought them to the event.

Uherske Hradiste Summer Film School
"It's the possibility to see some films out of the mainstream and you meet a lot of people here. The highlight is the town itself, which is surprisingly pretty. And the whole atmosphere here is very relaxed."

"I can watch films that I haven't had time to see in the past. I'm glad that I can come here, talk to people, and just relax. Sometimes I feel that there might be problems with accommodation, but I guess that's just part of the relaxed atmosphere. You simply take things as they come and just enjoy it."

"I go to the festival every year. It's a great festival. I have a good time and I enjoy it. I like watching the movies and the crazy atmosphere with all the people and stuff. I'm enjoying myself here."

Glen Hansard
This year, was Irish singer Glen Hansard's second time at the film school and, like many ordinary visitors to the event, he is a big fan of its relaxed, low-key nature:

"I was here last year or the year before - to be honest with you I can't remember right now - but I came and played right here in this square and had a fantastic time and got to meet some great people. So coming back this time I knew what to expect. It's really great that they're doing an Irish angle on it this year. I think it's a nice compliment to the Irish. So far I've already met [the uilleann piper]Paddy Keenan and [singer] Iarla O'Lionaird as well as the people from [the Czech folk group] Cechomor - Karel from Cechomor is a great guy. It's been a great couple of days for just hanging out with people who have good light in them and good spirits. It's been good."

Uherske Hradiste Summer Film School
Many of the accompanying concerts for the film school were organized by Jens Uhl, a German who has been living in Ireland for over thirty years, but who has also been coming regularly to the Czech Republic since the late 1960s. He feels that events like the Uherske Hradiste film school are perfect showcases for promoting places in the Czech Republic outside of Prague, which is still the only thing many foreigners know about the country:

"Everyone wants to go to Prague, but I also love the small Czech towns, you know, like Valasske Mezirici or Uherske Hradiste. They have something special and the people are special and they're not spoiled by tourism or commercialism. They're real people who love music and culture."