Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2009

Tips and picks for this year's International Film Festival

The 44th annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will descend upon the famed Czech spa town from July 3 – 11. One of the longest-running and most important film festivals in Central Europe, the 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.

Most films will screen in English or with English subtitles; the few exceptions should be noted in the festival guide and on the festival´s website, www.kviff.com.

Tickets to films are 65 CZK apiece, 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 of each screening.

NOTE: this year, for the first time, you can reserve tickets online through the festival website. 10% of tickets to screenings will be made available for reservation for all festival guests, but be warned, the window is short: from 10:00 on Monday, June 29, 2009 until midnight on Tuesday, June 30, 2009.

Also note: the films mentioned below are those that caught my eye while browsing the festival guide, films I´ll personally try to catch. But there´s nothing better than venturing into the unknown at Karlovy Vary, and in my years of doing so I´ve only rarely come across a dud.

KVIFF 2009

Shana Feste´s The Greatest, an Ordinary People-inspired drama starring Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandan, and Carey Mulligan that premiered at Sundance, will open this year´s fest. Closing the fest on the night of the 11th will be the latest romantic comedy from director Richard Curtis, The Boat That Rocked, which stars Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and will open wide in the Czech Republic in late July.

Guests & Tributes

Attending this year´s fest will be actor John Malkovich, who will accept a Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema. A tribute to the actor includes his directorial debut, The Dancer Upstairs, and his latest film, the US-Mexico co-production Which Way Home.

Acclaimed French director Patrice Chéreau will also be honored at the fest; a retrospective of his work will showcase some of the director´s better-known films, including Queen Margot, Intimacy, and Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train.

Director Alan Rudolph will also be on hand for a tribute to his work, which includes the following five films: The Secret Lives of Dentists, Choose Me, Remember My Name, Love at Large, and Trouble in Mind. I highly recommend checking out the films of this largely overlooked director – especially Choose Me and Remember My Name.

Legendary Czech animator Jan Švankmajer will receive a Crystal Globe and present his 1996 film, Conspirators of Pleasure.

Other notable guests and honorees: Antonio Banderas, who will present his directorial work Summer Rain and pick up the Festival President´s award; Isabelle Huppert, who will pick up a Crystal Globe (and can be seen in Benoît Jacquot´s Villa Amalia, which screens in competition); and screenwriter and director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Mishima), who will present his latest, Adam Resurrected.

A Walk Worthwhile

In 1965, Miloš Forman directed a stage version of Jiří Suchý´s jazz opera A Walk Worthwhile for Prague´s Semafor Theater. Over 40 years later, Forman returned to Prague to direct a version (along with his son, Petr) of the opera that premiered at Prague´s National Theater; this theatrical performance has been adapted for the screen, and will have its world premiere at Karlovy Vary before bowing into local cinemas on July 9th.

Official Selection

Films competing for the top prize at this year´s fest include Cold Souls, a dark comedy starring Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn, and Emily Watson, from debut director Sophie Barthes; I am Not Your Friend, the latest from Hungarian director György Pálfi (Taxidermia); Whiskey with Vodka, a comedy-drama from German director Andreas Dresen (Cloud 9); Piggies, from Poland and director Robert Gliński; and the aforementioned Villa Amalia, from French director Benoît Jacquot.

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Films screening out of competition include the opening and closing night films The Greatest and The Boat That Rocked and Antonio Banderas´ Summer Rain, along with Contact High, a “psychedelic gangster comedy“ from Austrian director Michael Glawogger, and T.M.A., the latest from Czech New Wave director Jurjaj Herz (The Cremator).

Documentary films screening in competition include Thriller in Manilla, UK director John Dower´s recount of the classic boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975, and Ondi Timoner´s We Live in Public, a look at dot-com entrepreneur Josh Harris, which won a Grand Jury Prize at this year´s Sundance fest.

Forum of Independents

Films competing for the Independent Camera Award at this year´s fest include Adulthood, debuting UK director Noel Clarke´s sequel to Kidulthood (which he wrote and starred in), and the aptly-titled Escape From the Call Centre, from Italy and director Federico Rizzo.

Open Eyes

A number of highly-anticipated films from some of the world´s top directors highlight this section, which includes: Lars Von Trier´s Antichrist, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, which became instantly notorious following its debut at Cannes this year; Pedro Almodóvar´s latest, Broken Embraces, which stars Penélope Cruz; Michael Haneke´s The White Ribbon; and two films from two of South Korea´s top directors – Thirst, which won a Jury Prize at Cannes for director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), and Mother, from director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Memories of Murder).

The five films mentioned above all enjoy must-see status. Also recommended from this section are Andrea Arnold´s Fish Tank and Lynn Shelton´s Humpday.

Horizons

This section, while not typical festival fare, presents a number of high profile productions from around the world. Included: Michael Mann´s Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale (which goes into wide release in the Czech Republic during the fest); Darren Aronofsky´s The Wrestler; Baltasar Kormákur´s White Night Wedding; François Ozon´s Ricky; Jim Jarmusch´s The Limits of Control; Sam Mendes´ Away We Go; Paul Schrader´s Adam Resurrected; and Claire Denis´ 35 Shots of Rum.

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Another View

Included in this section, which focuses on “films revealing unusual artistic approaches” are Nicolas Winding Refn´s Bronson, a biopic on notorious British prisoner Charles Bronson (not to be confused with the actor); The Ferrari Dino Girl, the latest from Czech director Jan Němec; Ramin Bahrani´s Goodbye Solo, which garnered a good deal of praise during its US run earlier this year; and Sell Out!, from Malaysian director Yeo Joon Han.

The Another View – Tokyo FilmeX section features a selection of films from Tokyo FilmeX, a festival of independant Japanese film. Among the films included are director Sion Sono´s 4-hour Love Exposure, which won a pair of prizes at this year´s Berlin International Film Festival.

Variety Critic´s Choice

Among the films hand-picked by Variety critics are The Children, a horror film about a Christmas vacation gone wrong from the UK and director Tom Shankland; Dutch video artist Noud Heerkens´ Last Conversation, a film set entirely during a phone conversation in a car starring Johanna ter Steege; and Gergely Fonyó´s Made in Hungaria, about a 1960s Hungarian pop star.

Midnight Screenings

This year´s midnite movies include Black Dynamite, a 70s blaxploitation throwback from director Scott Sanders; Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar´s A Town Called Panic, a stop-motion feature from the French TV show; and prolific director Takashi Miike´s Yatterman, from the popular Japanese anime.

Treasures from the National Film Archives

Karel Anton´s Gipsies, a 1921 silent from poet Karel Hynek Mácha´s novella, screens in this section alongside two Hollywood classics: Charles Vidor´s Cover Girl and Fred Zinneman´s From Here to Eternity.

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Other unique sections at this year´s fest include 20 Years of Freedom, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution with six films focusing on the era, and A Female Take on Russia, which showcases recent Russian films from female directors.

Note: many of the films in the Czech Films 2008-2009 section will not be screening with English subtitles (though some will!)


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