“We hope it will be a warm celebration of cinema”: East of West head on first KVIFF in two years

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, which begins on Friday, prides itself on bringing titles from the former Eastern bloc to international audiences via its flagship East of the West competition. But how is the Covid situation impacting those efforts? And what does it mean for filmmakers from around the region hoping to personally present their works at Karlovy Vary? I put those questions to the head of East of the West, Lenka Tyrpáková.

How was the process of selecting the films for East of the West different this year, because of Covid and the fact there was no festival last year?

Lenka Tyrpáková | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

“I think it was more colourful and there was a bigger variety, because there were some films waiting in the queue, let’s say, from last year.

“So it wasn’t easy, but I think we managed to select 12 great films.”

How about guests? Will the impact of Covid mean there are fewer guests, or anything like that?

“Luckily most of the guests will be able to attend their premieres.

“But for now we already know that for example for the world premiere of the Russian film Nuuccha, which we are presenting in the East of the West competition, the director and the crew won’t be able to attend the very first screening of their film because Russia is now in the [Covid] black zone.

'Nuuccha' | Photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

“So we tried hard to get them here, but unfortunately it won’t be possible.

“It is really painful for us because it is a film shot in Yakutia, which is a very interesting region film-wise, where a lot of things are happening nowadays.

“We really were looking forward to presenting the cast and crew to our audience.

“But we hope we will have some message [from the filmmakers] and we will still present the film, of course.”

'Mirrors in the Dark' | Photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

What can you tell us about the Czech films in East of the West, Mirrors in the Dark and the documentary Intensive Life Unit?

“We will present the first fiction film from a very interesting young author, Šimon Holý.

“He will present his first film Mirrors in the Dark, which is a formally very interesting, black and white, let’s say, drama about finding one’s way in life.

“And then we have Intensive Life Unit by Adéla Komrzý, which talks about palliative care in Czech hospitals.

“It’s still in its beginnings and I think this is something to talk about, definitely.”

'Intensive Life Unit' | Photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

There are also Czech documentaries and fiction films in the main competition. What decides which films go in East of the West and which go in the main competition?

“Basically the East of the West competition is focused on debuts and second films.

“And of course it depends on other factors, because in the main competition we also have some strong first films.

“It also depends on the structure of one of the competitions, how it fits.

“And sometimes it’s a strong but small film which might be more vulnerable in the main competition.

“So these are some of the factors which decide where we present films.”

Obviously this year Vary is taking place in an environment of Covid. How do you think it’s actually going to be when everybody gets there?

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival begins on Friday | Photo: Slavomír Kubeš,  ČTK

“This is the question we are asking ourselves as well.

“But we really believe that the audience will be eager to come back, because they have good memories of the festival.

“Maybe it will be more modest and there might be less guests, but we still hope it will be a warm celebration of cinema.”