Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011 Preview

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011 Preview

The 46th annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will descend upon the famed Czech spa town from July 1 – 9, 2011. One of the longest-running and most important film festivals in Central Europe, KVIFF is the only Category A film festival in the Czech Republic. Each year, thousands of visitors descend upon Karlovy Vary to view more than 200 new films from around the world.

Nearly all films will screen in English or with English subtitles; among the few exceptions will be some local films screening only in Czech or Slovak.


Note: want to reserve your tickets in advance? You’ll need to register an account at www.kviff.com, and then visit tickets.kviff.com during the short window between 10:00 on Monday, June 27th and midnight on Tuesday the 28th. Reservations are limited, and from past experience, popular films will be booked in minutes. If you´re reading this on Monday morning, hurry up!

Tickets to films are 65 CZK apiece (50 CZK for students), but beware: most tickets will go to (in order) industry, media, and festival pass holders before general audiences. Only an hour before each screening will unsold tickets be made available. The festival pass is your best option to get into screenings, and can be had for 1-day at 200 CZK to (incrementally) the entire festival at 1000 CZK. Just note that, especially for high-profile screenings, the festival pass will not guarantee entry. And even with the pass, you’ll need to obtain tickets the day before or the day of each screening, or show up to the screening 5 minutes in advance and hope for a last-minute seat (surprisingly, this actually works in many cases).


From personal experience, I´d recommend booking a hotel in the dead center of town, if possible, which would give you a 15-20 minute walk from most screening venues. The KVIFF website offers a nice list of hotels sortable by type, and also recommends the booking agent www.karlovyvary.st.

Budget-conscious (and brave) visitors can also stay at a campsite at the AC Start Karlovy Vary stadium for 80 CZK a night (there´s also a free bus to the center from here) or a makeshift hostel at the school (Nábřeží Palacha 1) near the Thermal Hotel for 99 CZK per night (bring your own sleeping bag).

Special Guests

Each year, KVIFF welcomes a number of high-profile guests; many will show up unannounced. Confirmed guests for this year´s fest include John Malkovich, who will be promoting Technobohemian, a line of men´s clothing he has designed that will be modeled by Czech actors during the fest (the actor is returning to the Czech Republic after being burgled in Prague a few weeks ago), and actor John Turturro, who will receive the festival´s President´s Award and present the world premiere of his latest film, Somewhere Tonight.

Other actors attending include Burt Young (Rocky), who will present Tom McCarthy´s Win Win; David Morse, who will present Martin Donovan´s Collaborator, which screens in competition; Israeli actor Sasson Gabai, presenting Restoration; Italian actor Remo Girone, presenting The Jewel; and Polish actor Jerzy Stuhr (Kieslowski’s Blind Chance and Three Colors: White) who returns to KVIFF with his latest film Habemus papam (We Have a Pope), from Italian director Nanno Moretti (The Son’s Room).

Directors at the fest include Monte Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop, a personal favorite), who will present his latest feature, Road to Nowhere (see “10 Films Not to Miss” below). Opening night film Jane Eyre will be accompanied by its director, Cary Jôji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre). And KVIFF favorite Kim Ki-Duk (3-Iron, Time, Breath) brings his latest, the autobiographical documentary Arirang.

This year´s festival trailer, which will premiere at the fest on July 1, stars Jude Law. Here´s last year´s trailer, with Malkovich:

(And here´s my favorite fest trailer, from a few years back, starring Miloš Forman. More at KVIFF´s YouTube Channel.)

Films in competition will be screened before a grand jury headed by acclaimed Hungarian director István Szabó (Mephisto, Being Julia). Heading the documentary jury is US director Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story); his 2000 doc Fighter will also be screened at the fest.

10 Films Not to Miss

The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito)
The latest from director Pedro Almodóvar (Talk to Her, All About My Mother) comes to Karlovy Vary after premiering at Cannes in May, where it competed for the Palme d’Or (it lost to Terrence Malick´s The Tree of Life, also screening at KVIFF). The Skin I Live In stars Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon seeking revenge on the men who raped his daughter.

Director Wim Wenders´ 3D dance documentary is an homage to collaborator and Tanztheater Wuppertal founder Pina Bausch, who passed away in 2009. Pina has been praised for its unconventional use of 3D.

Le Havre

Deadpan Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki has long been a KVIFF favorite. His latest, a comedy-drama about an elderly shoe shiner and a Vietnamese immigrant, picked up the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes this year.

The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au vélo)
Brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have become two of Belgium’s most celebrated filmmakers, as their previous five films (Rosetta, The Son, The Child, Lorna´s Silence, and now their latest) have enjoyed success at Cannes and festivals abroad. The Kid with a Bike, a foster care drama starring Cécile De France and Jérémie Renier, picked up a Special Jury Prize at Cannes. (Note: thanks for the correction, Hans!)

Road to Nowhere
Monte Hellman has long been one of my favorite filmmakers, for his existential Jack Nicholson westerns Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting, and the incomparable Two-Lane Blacktop. He seemed to disappear after the late 70s, turning up to direct Silent Night Deadly Night 3 in 1989, and Road to Nowhere represents his first feature in more than 20 years.

The Turin Horse (A torinói ló)
The mental breakdown and eventual death of Friedrich Nietzsche is generally tied to the whipping of a horse he witnessed in Turin. But what happened to the horse? This film, by master Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr (his 7-hour epic Sátántangó can be seen on some lists of the best films ever made), sounds more than a little like Robert Bresson´s Au Hasard Balthazar.

Magic Trip
In 1964, counterculture icons Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters embarked on an LSD-fueled journey across the US, filming their exploits along the way; nearly half a century later, filmmakers Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room) and Alison Ellwood have unearthed that footage for this psychedelic throwback doc.

Actor Paddy Considine (In America, Dead Man´s Shoes) made his directorial debut with this hard-hitting look at an abusive relationship, which picked up two awards at Sundance this year. Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, and Eddie Marsan star.

Deep End
Despite being one of acclaimed Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski´s most famous films, this 1971 comedy-drama has been largely underseen during the past 40 years, available only on VHS (on July 18, it will receive its first DVD – and blu-ray – from BFI in the UK). Along with the film, Robert Fisher´s feature-length documentary Starting Out: The Making of Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End will also be screened.

White Dog
This year´s KVIFF features a tribute to iconic American director Sam Fuller, screening 10 of his films including classics Pickup on South Street, Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss, and the 159-minute restoration of The Big Red One. But one of my favorites is one of his last; White Dog is a heartbreaking story of the attempted deprogramming of a dog trained to attack black people.

If You Can Wait…

Several of the higher-profile films at KVIFF will receive wide releases in the Czech Republic during the months following the festival; if you can wait for them to hit Prague cinemas, you´ll have some time to catch an extra film or two you might not otherwise get to see. And you´re likely to have a better cinematic experience in Prague, to boot – there´s no topping the Thermal´s Grand Hall, but many of the smaller Karlovy Vary screening halls offer less-than-ideal amenities.

Premiering at KVIFF, but coming soon to Prague cinemas: Joe Wright´s excellent teenage assassin saga Hanna (opens wide July 7 – check back next week for a review); Richard Ayoade´s Submarine (July 14); Terrence Malick´s The Tree of Life (July 21), an ambitious epic that has been compared to Kubrick´s 2001: A Space Odyssey; Cary Jôji Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre (July 28); Tom McCarthy´s Win Win (August 18); and Woody Allen´s Midnight in Paris (September 22), the closing night film, which has been touted as Allen´s best in years.

Missed It

Unable to make the trip to this year´s KVIFF? From July 9 – 20, Echoes of Karlovy Vary will bring selected films from the festival to Prague at Kino Světozor and other venues.


Festival website home page
Ticket sales and ticket office locations
Reserving tickets
Cinema locations
Screening regulations
Festival travel information / Czech Rail / Bus and train booking
Map of Karlovy Vary

Have you attended the Karlovy Vary fest in the past? Any tips for new visitors? What are you looking forward to seeing this year?

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