The 50th Karlovy Vary International Festival, which opened in the west Bohemian spa town last Friday, has screened over 200 movies and welcomed a number of international celebrities. Radio Prague’s Ian Willoughby has been at the festival from the outset and I asked him how things have gone so far:
“I would say it has gone very well, though it has been extremely hot this year. The opening weekend was dominated by the presence of the Hollywood star Richard Gere. He attended the opening ceremony on Friday where he received the festival’s Crystal Globe Award for lifetime achievement.
“Then on Saturday night he appeared at the huge outdoor cinema here in Karlovy Vary for a screening of ‘Pretty Woman’, and incredibly, seven thousand people turned out to see him presenting the film which is 25 years old now.
“The next night he again presented a new film here at the Hotel Thermal, so Richard Gere was a very visible guest at the festival and my view always is that if the star guests make an effort and mix with people and try to be kind of accessible, it really adds a lot to the festival. I think Richard Gere was very much in that category of an accessible, good guest for the festival.”
What about films – the Crystal Globe for Best Film will be given out on Saturday night – from talking to people do you get any sense that there are any frontrunners?
“Well, it’s hard to say, because there are twelve films and I haven’t seen all of them. But a lot of people are praising the competition film ‘The Sound of Trees’ by a Canadian director Francois Peloquin. It’s a coming of age film about a teenager in a small town.
“For me one of the most interesting films so far has been ‘Gold Coast’ by the Danish director Daniel Dencik. It’s a kind of re-imagining of colonialism and it’s really spectacular.
“Away from the competition, the most popular film, at least according to the ongoing audience vote in the Festival newspaper, is ‘Youth’ by Paolo Sorrentino and one the main stars of that film, Harvey Keitel, is coming here to present the film tomorrow.
“For me the best film I have personally seen is called ‘Embrace of the Serpent’ by a Columbian director Ciro Guerra, and it’s an amazing black-and-white film set in the Amazonian jungle.
Karlovy Vary is also known as a big social event in the Czech – away from the films, who has been seen there this year?
“It is a very big social event, one of the biggest in the Czech Republic I think, and many people definitely only come here only to schmooze. There are lots of business people and of course many politicians, past and present. For example Václav Klaus, who has had a long association with the festival, was at the opening.
“Maybe more interestingly, the Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka was here and he had things to say that will concern the festival organizers about the hotel Thermal, which is the centre of the festival.
“The hotel is owned by the Ministry of Finance and there has been talk about it being possibly privatised and that would put the future of the festival in doubt. The Prime Minister said though that he favoured the Thermal remaining in state hands.
“So I think his comments would have been very much welcome by the festival organisers, because people are worried what would happen if the Thermal was privatised.”
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