Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2004

What you need to know about the Czech Republic's biggest movie event

What is the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival?

Karlovy Vary is the most important film festival in Central and Eastern Europe and the only Czech film festival to have "Category A" status, equivalent to festivals like Cannes, Berlin or Venice. Put simply, it is the Czech Republic's most important film event.

When is the festival taking place?

It runs from Friday, July 2nd until Saturday, July 10th.

Where's Karlovy Vary and how do I get there from Prague?

Karlovy Vary, formerly known as Carlsbad or Karlsbad, is roughly 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of Prague.

To get there by car, take the E48 highway.

On public transportation, it's easiest to take a bus from Prague's Florenc terminal. The bus journey usually takes a little over two hours.

It's also possible to get to Karlovy Vary by train but this normally involves a change and is usually slower than bus.

To check bus and train times online, see the IDOS website.

How do I get tickets?

With great difficulty, usually.

Demand for tickets is intense. Getting to see the film you want often involves getting up very early and joining a very long line of people waiting for the box office to open.

Tickets for this year's films, priced 65 Kč, will go on sale the day before each screening.

If you're planning to see a lot of films, we suggest buying a Festival Pass, which allows you to see up to four films per day. A one-day pass costs 240 Kč, a three-day pass costs 600 Kč, a five-day pass costs 820 Kč and a pass for the entire festival costs 1,200 Kč.

Festivalgoers with a Festival Pass are also able to avoid the queues by booking tickets via a WAP-enabled mobile phone, and also allows free entry, without tickets, to any screening that isn't sold out.

How many films will be shown?

Around 230 films will be screened at this year's festival, at 13 cinemas dotted around Karlovy Vary's colonnades.

The 2004 festival is significantly smaller than last year's event, when 304 films were screened, because there are fewer available cinema spaces this year.

What kind of films do they show at Karlovy Vary? Movies about gay cowboys eating chocolate pudding?

While many of the films screened at Karlovy Vary are more thoughtful or more challenging than your average multiplex fare, very little of it is actually spills over into the pretentiousness or self-indulgence you might associate with "art movies".

The program also includes plenty of films that would appeal to fans of Hollywood blockbusters. This year, for instance, Shrek 2, receives its Czech premiere at the festival, as does Michael Moore's controversial new tub-thumper, Fahrenheit 9/11.

Movies are usually presented in the following categories:

Official Selection - Competition
The film's competing for the festival's top prize, the Crystal Globe.

Official Selection - Out of Competition
Effectively, high-profile films (such as Shrek 2) that don't belong in any other category.

Documentary Competition
Awards are given for films under 30 minutes and films over 30 minutes.

Another View
Experimental films.

Czech Films 2003-2004
Every locally produced feature film from the past 12 months.

East of the West
Films from Central and Eastern Europe.

Forum of Independents
Independent films, mainly from the United States.

Award-winners at other recent international film festivals.

Variety Critics' Choice
Ten European films specially selected by writers at this American magazine.

This year's festival will also be showing films in these categories:

2004: A Musical Odyssey
Films about music.

Dance for the Camera
Films about dancing and choreography.

Sergio Leone
A selection of films by the "spaghetti western" maestro.

Ten Best Turkish Films
The ten best Turkish films of all time, as selected in a poll of film professionals.

Tribute to John Cassavetes
A selection of films by the great American director.

What if I don't speak any foreign languages?

It won't be a problem.

According to festival programme coordinator Julietta Zacharova, "All our films must be provided with English subtitles unless they are in the English language. It might happen that in the case of two or three archive films there will be no English subtitles but such situations are really very rare."

As for Czech-speakers, Zacharova says that this year's festival will employ the electronic subtitling system successfully introduced last year.

Will anybody famous be coming to the festival?

Yes. Among the guests expected in Karlovy Vary are Harvey Keitel, John Cleese, Lord of the Rings stars Elijah Wood and Bernard Hill, Star Trek's Colm Meaney, Twin Peaks sex symbol Sherilynn Fenn and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the genius behind Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. See the official festival site for a full list of festival guests.

How do I find a place to stay in Karlovy Vary?

Finding a decent place to stay in Karlovy Vary during the festival can be a struggle. We suggest reading the official site's accommodation page.

Anything else I should know?

Don’t be too fussy about what you see. The films screened at the festival are generally good, tickets are always in short supply and the official descriptions of movies in the festival program are often rather vague. See as many films as possible and, more often than not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

And take an extra layer of clothing. No matter how hot it is in Prague when you set off for the festival, it always seems to be a few degrees chillier in KV.

For more information, see the official Karlovy Vary International Film Festival website

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