There are 14 films in competition at this year's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, with the winner of the Crystal Globe for best picture to be announced at the festival's closing ceremony on Saturday night. Among those on the seven-member grand jury is the American actress Ali MacGraw, perhaps best known for the hit 1970s film Love Story. Ian Willoughby spoke to Ali MacGraw in Karlovy Vary, and asked her if it was her first time on a jury, and how she was enjoying it.
"This is my first time on a jury and I'm enjoying it a lot. In the first place they've collected such fabulous people, with such interesting different points of view. I think when it comes time to make the decisions we'll have a lot of lively discussion.
"Somehow I naively thought, oh this is going to be nothing; I don't mean nothing, but that we would all be in agreement. But so far we're not in agreement and that's fun."
Many of our listeners will have been here to Karlovy Vary and will know the town. What's your impression of the venue here, the town itself?
"I see it as though it was another century. It is so romantic and nostalgic. When I take this main walk, which is what I've done, back and forth, I see it as though it were 1913, and I love it. And of course it's just very beautiful, and clean. And now that the sun is out and with everyone sitting on the street and having a coffee and laughing, it's great!"
Have you tried the spa water?
"I tried the spa water this morning - I can't say that it's a gourmet taste. However, I love that they've been doing it for, whatever, 500 years and that people come for months at a time as a kind of detoxification.
"Unfortunately I don't know how much I can do in 10 days. I laughingly told my friends at home that I would be drinking the fountain of youth for ten days and they'd be astounded when I came back. We'll see."
Is this your first time in the Czech Republic, and what are your impressions?
"It's my first time and frankly and honestly one of the reasons I was so excited to accept this invitation to be a judge is that I've always wanted to come here. I've travelled all over the world extensively, both for work and because it interests me.
"I always knew, I always knew, that it would feel this wonderful. I'm blessed because I wasn't here during the really heart-breaking times throughout the last century, but...the energy and the sense of liberty and expression and optimism, and millions of young people - how could you not feel great? And the flowers and the food and the buildings and the...
"I'm going to Prague after the festival because of course I have to go to Prague. I cannot wait. I'm the last person I know to have seen Prague. I'll be back, no question."
The president of this year's grand jury does know Prague, and the Czech Republic, well. Michael Radford has directed films such as Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Oscar-nominated Italian-language film The Postman. But when he was younger Michael Radford used to go out with an exiled Czech filmmaker, and came here often to visit her family. What were his impressions of the Karlovy Vary film festival, and was he already familiar with the pretty spa town?
"I've never been to this part of the Czech Republic before. Of course I know about the history of Carlsbad, or Karlovy Vary. I know about its connections with Dostoevsky...I wasn't expecting something quite so deliciously beautiful, actually, I have to say. It's such a perfect little place, it's quite wonderful.
"One thing that hasn't changed is Czech cuisine, so I'm having to take a lot of exercise in order to work it off. I'm not use to this kind of stuff anymore (laughs)."
What about the festival itself - how does it compare to other festivals you may have been to?
"The festival that it most reminds me of is Toronto, because of the public. I think the thing about this festival that is the way in which it's supported by the public. Not just film buffs but people who really come to buy their ticket and are really interested in enjoying the movies.
"Every movie that I've come to has been absolutely packed out, every audience has been really generous towards the movie. They really enjoy it; they want to see the best about the movie. And that gives a tremendous sense...to people who work in cinema it's a great pleasure to see that, because it makes us feel that cinema is still important in some kind of way."
What about the social side of the festival? You're here for over a week - are you having to pace yourself in terms of going out?
"When I used to go to festivals a lot was when I was young and single and it was a great place for meeting girls. And I'm sure it still is here in Karlovy Vary, because Czech girls have a great reputation for beauty and, if you like, extreme welcome.
"But actually I'm here with my wife and my baby (laughs) so I'm having to really pace myself. My baby, who is four months old, has been to see a couple of movies, and she has just fallen in love with the cinema. She woke up during the Jim Jarmusch and started gurgling with pleasure.
"But people still smoke a lot here and so it's difficult to go out at night with a baby. You can't take the baby into that kind of atmosphere, so I guess I'm pacing myself rather more than I would have done in the old days."
For more information about the Karlovy Vary festival go to www.kviff.com
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