Top 10 Picks for Karlovy Vary 2014

What to see at this year's International Film Festival, July 4-12

Now in its 49th year, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will descend upon the Czech spa town once again from July 4-12, 2014. With an impressive array of films that includes the latest hits from the Cannes and Sundance film festivals, along with tributes to Italian filmmaker Elio Petri, Indian director Anurag Kashyap, and British artist Ben Rivers, the 2014 edition of the Karlovy Vary fest boasts one of the most impressive lineups of recent years. 

Going to the fest from Prague? There’s still time to book tickets and accommodation. Karlovy Vary is a two-hour journey from Prague by bus; tickets can be purchased via Student Agency (or other carriers). Hotels can still be booked (check but the festival also offers last-minute accommodation at area hotels at discounted rates – visit the  accommodation desk at the festival center at Hotel Thermal for details. During the fest, a makeshift hostel is available at a local school (150 CZK per night) and a camping ground is set up on the outskirts of town (80 CZK) with a free shuttle into the center. 

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Festival Passes (200 CZK for a day, 500 CZK for three days, etc.) can be purchased at fest box offices (located at Thermal and throughout the city) and entitle the holder to up to three films per day; tickets to films can be reserved the day of or the day before a screening through SMS or at a box office. Alternatively, pass holders can get into films without a ticket as long as there is space. Tickets to films can also be purchased without a festival pass (65 CZK), and if you’re quick, you can book online on Monday, June 30th.

For more info about the fest and Karlovy Vary, visit the festival website, which covers just about every question, and watch the festival Facebook page for updates, including which famous guests will attend; just announced – Mel Gibson, who will be on hand to receive a Crystal Globe. 

Also read:  The 10 best things to do in Prague this week: February 24–March 1

So what’s on tap for this year’s fest? Along with the tributes – whose highlights include Petri’s subversive crime drama Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and a 320-minute screening of Kashyap’s epic Gangs of Wasseypur – the selection of classic films includes a restored print of William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, Andrey Tarkovsky’s seminal sci-fi Solaris, and a silent Czech film, the Vlasta Burian–Anny Ondra comedy An Old Gangster’s Molls, with live piano accompaniment. Also: an eight-hour marathon screening of the HBO series True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (highly recommended!)

Current films at this year’s fest include Korean director Joon-ho Bong’s Snowpiercer (starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton), which was shot in Prague; the prison drama Starred Up and the Belfast soldier story ’71, both of which star the UK’s hottest rising star, Jack O’Connell; the Nick Cave documentary 20,000 Days on Earth; I Origins, the new sci-fi film from Mike Cahill (Another Earth), which will open the festival; and the latest highlights from the Czech film scene, which include premieres of Rudolf Havlík’s Zejtra napořád and Miroslav Krobot’s Díra u Hanušovic, which plays in competition. 

But there’s plenty more. Below, I list the ten I’m most looking forward to. 


Not to be confused with last year’s acclaimed documentary about commercial fishing, this Russian drama from director Andrey Zvyagintsev made a splash at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it was expected by many observers to win the Palme d’Or (instead, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep took home the top prize.) Combining elements of thriller and comedy – with an allegorical connection to contemporary Russian politics – Leviathan has received near-perfect reviews in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, and just about every other outlet. 

Life Itself

Roger Ebert, Pulitzer Prize winner, writer of Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and one of the most recognized film critics ever (and a personal hero), died last spring after a long battle with throat cancer. This documentary was based on his memoirs and made by director Steve James, whose 1994 film Hoop Dreams Ebert was a strong supporter of. 


25-year-old Enfant terrible Xavier Dolan has quickly risen to the top of the festival ranks with his previous films, I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats, Laurence Anyways, and Tom at the Farm. Mommy – a drama about a single mother and her violence-prone son shot in a unique 1:1 aspect ratio – is his best-reviewed yet, and the film that is set to launch Dolan into the ranks of established auteurs three times his age. 

Of Horses and Men

Here’s one we haven’t seen before: this Icelandic comedy about the relationship between humans and their equine companions is told through the horses’ perspective. Iceland’s official submission to the 2014 Academy Awards was directed by Benedikt Erlingsson, and swept Iceland’s version of the Oscars (it’s also picked up awards at just about every other festival it has played, including Tokyo, Tallinn, and San Sebastián). 

Also read:  The 10 best things to do in Prague this week: Valentine's Day edition

The Rover

This latest film from Australian director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) stars Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson in a post-apocalyptic story about a drifter, his car, and a gang of thieves. Reviews have been muted but mostly appreciative; still, after the director’s previous film, this is one of my most anticipated of 2014. 

The Tribe

This Ukrainian film from director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy is set at a school for the deaf and dumb, and told completely without narration or subtitles (for the sign language used throughout the movie): love and hate need no language. The Tribe received some excellent notices from this year’s Cannes festival, where it won three side awards.

What We Do in the Shadows

A Vampire mockumentary from Flight of the Conchords’ Jermaine Clement, who directs and co-stars with fellow kiwi Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark). Horror comedy is hard to get right, but this one is drawing comparisons to Shaun of the Dead

White Shadow

This Tanzanian drama from artist-filmmaker Noaz Deshe tackles a horrifying-but-true subject: the hunting and dismemberment of local albinos, whose limbs are said to bring good luck and fetch thousands of dollars on the black market. Ryan Gosling produced the film, which was awarded at last year’s Venice Film Festival.

Wild Tales

An audience favorite at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, this subversive comedy directed by Damian Szifron and produced by Pedro Almodóvar will close the Karlovy Vary festival on July 12. From Variety’s Jay Weissberg: “For pure viewing pleasure, the one wild card in the Cannes competition this year is unlikely to be beaten.”


What are you seeing at Karlovy Vary 2014?

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