Film festivals often bring to mind shiny limousines with film stars at Cannes or fancy banquets in Venice. In the Czech Republic the most famous festival is held every year Karlovy Vary, a quiet spa town that comes to life almost overnight. But there are other festivals which perhaps don't get as much attention but should, focusing on issues like tourism or the environment. Over the last couple of weeks the Czech Republic was full of events of this kind.
Besides hosting a Grade "A" festival, Karlovy Vary also regularly holds the Tourfilm festival, now 37-years-old. Traditionally it takes place in October and enjoys the reputation of being the oldest film festival focused on tourism films in the world. Its director Josef Schutz proudly confirms this tradition.
"Of course there were older festivals but they don't exist anymore. At present there are about 22 festivals with a similar focus but our festival is unquestionably the oldest one, offering the widest selection of films screened. We have 135 states taking part with 712 films."
The winner of this year Tourfilm was a Swiss film called "Get Natural Water".
"The Swiss film thrilled audiences through a perfect balance of idea, film art and the main thing that Switzerland can offer - mountains and winter. All give ideal reasons to visit Switzerland."
Many Tourfilm participants perceive the event not only as a film festival but also as an occasion to establish new contacts. Hans Lillhage from Varberg in Sweden represented his town in the festival.
"We were discussing cooperation in different fields, we've had meetings with football clubs, with different music associations here in Karlovy Vary. We've discussed how to exchange experiences between choirs.....and of course, we are looking forward to a cooperation in the spa tourism theme."
Another film festival with a special subject which also takes place this month is Ekofilm. Its organizers also like to present it as the oldest film and video fest focused on environment issues in Europe. It started in 1974 in the heavily industrial city of Ostrava but was relocated after 23 years to the beautiful historic town Cesky Krumlov. There organizers slightly changed its focus, admitting films on natural and cultural heritage. During the communist period the festival became a free platform for presenting environmental issues and expressing one's opinion. Traditionally, the festival is accompanied by a number of events including discussions and workshops on different issues like waste recycling or saving energy.
Film producer Martin Posta says that these festivals are great as events presenting special topics, but less important in terms of film art.
"In case of tourism and in case of environmental films, it's more focused on the subject. It's not really about the film making art. You could see it as a kind of a promotion of various areas in the world. They cooperate with the tourist centers from different countries, so it's more of a presentation. It's not really about the art of film making. But it really depends. For example the Film on Music Festival is more of the combination of film art and music, so the documentaries presented there are more focused on the film making."
Finally, apart from Tourfilm and Ekofilm there are many other special film festivals around the country this month worth visiting. Academia Film Olomouc is an international film festival on documentary films and multimedia programs, while the Ota Hofman Film Festival in the town of Ostrov offers films for children. And, this week Prague hosts a new project called "Film on Music - Music on Film" - a festival specializing in music films. The Czech Republic also hosts a great number of further film festivals to discover all year 'round.
"The Czech Republic has about 60 film festivals. I think it's so popular to organize them because each group want to present themselves. They want to present the things they feel important or necessary for other people to see, like the tourism films or music films."
Well there are certainly many people who feel that film is a unique way of expressing their opinions and ideas. But let's move now from the rather documentary part of film art towards feature film. "Up and Down" is the English title of a new Czech film which has just hit the cinemas in recent weeks.
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