PRAGUE: Julianne Moore. Billy Crudup. Patricia Clarkson, Casey Affleck - The list of guests announced for the 54th Karlovy Vary IFF, 28 June-6 July 2019, reads like a who’s who of independent, uncompromising US talents of the highest order. It’s a tribute to the continued strength of Central Europe’s brightest film festival, and to the 25 years Karlovy Vary has been under the loving care of the team of Festival President Jiri Bartoska and Festival Consultant Eva Zaoralova.
Bartoska and Zaoralova began their collaboration in 1994, just as the festival was warding off a challenge from a rival (and short-lived) festival in Prague. Karlovy Vary was still a back-water, but Bartoska’s effusive personality (and matinee idol status) combined with Zaoralova’s glowing reputation in the festival world, brought the money and cache necessary to establish a festival that could hold its head high among the leading festivals in the world.
Although the festival won’t be looking back at the past reign of the pair, it will be retuning to the heady early days of the post-Communist era, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution with a selection of seven films in the special section Liberated. Artistic director Karel Och told FNE it would be one of the highlights of the festival for him. “They capture the atmosphere of the times,” he said. “They were daring in how far filmmakers wanted to go in mocking and characterising. It’s a message to young filmmakers: Go all the way and offend!”
Och also reflected on the shift in the selection of films in the Main Competition. In the past, it was one of the few places where films from the CEE region could find a regular place in competition at a major international festival. “Now many other festivals show films from here,” Och said. “We have fewer names from our territory, but we wanted to expand our geographic focus.” In addition, the festival’s East of the West competition, which is dedicated to CEE films, has grown in prestige.
Karlovy Vary is now one of the two leading international annual events in the Czech Republic, but funding isn’t getting any easier. Executive director Krystof Mucha told FNE that after the festival lost its long-time main sponsor due to a political falling out (the Czech Republic is as strongly divided as the UK or the USA), it gave the festival management the opportunity to expand its sponsorship base, which Mucha said was “a good thing.” And while it may seem to many a Karlovy Vary festival visitor that the festival is tapped to capacity, Mucha smiled and said he still wants to bring more people to Karlovy Vary.
This year’s attendees will include those four US film stars. Julianne Moore will attend the opening night with her husband, screenwriter/director Bart Freundlich, and with co-star Billy Crudup for the screening of her film After the Wedding, where she will receive the festival’s Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema. Patricia Clarkson will receive the same honour, the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema, on the festival’s closing night. She will also present the film Learning to Drive directed by Isabel Coixet. Casey Affleck, who is already a recipient of the Festival President’s Award, will present his newest film Light of My Life, which he directed, wrote, stars in, and produced.
The festival also announced its jury members. Czech screenwriter Stepan Hulik will sit on the Grand Jury along with Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa. FNE’s own Pavlina Jeleva will join this year’s Fedora Jury.