Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011: Preview

The Czech Republic's most prestigious movie event returns to west Bohemia July 1-9

Hot weather, summer rain, red carpet glamour and hot springs -- but, most of all, backpackers resting on the colonnades, studying festival programs and lining up for tickets, screenings, concerts, beer and halušky. That's the usual scene at the only A-list festival in Central Europe and, in its 46th year, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will again serve a mixture of all of the above to accompany its showcase of the world's best cinema.

Guests and films
As usual, the festival will include a touch of Hollywood, this year by recognizing the achievements of two iconic actors, Judi Dench and John Turturro. Dench, an Academy Award-winner who is probably best known for her portrayal of M in the James Bond movies, will be awarded the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema. Turturro, who has starred in films directed by the likes of Woody Allen, Michael Cimino, the Coen brothers and Spike Lee, and who plays Agent Simmons in the Transformers series, will receive the President's Award and will present his new film Somewhere Tonight.

The KVIFF will welcome back another actor, John Malkovich, who received the festival's lifetime contribution award two years ago. This time, the actor, director and producer isn't coming to show a film or accept an accolade, but to introduce his new collection of non-traditional clothing for men called Technobohemian, which will be modelled on the catwalk by Czech actors.

Other returnees include Cary Fukunaga, the talented young director who presented his Sundance hit Sin Nombre here two years ago, and who will open the festival with his new film, Jane Eyre. The Charlotte Brontë adaptation will also be the first festival film to be screened at the restored open-air cinema. Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris will close the festival July 9. Both films have already been bought for Czech distribution, and will be in local cinemas on July 28 and September 22, respectively.

The main competition will feature one film coproduced by the Czech Republic and Slovakia -- Slovak director Martin Šulík will compete with his new film Gypsy (Cigán), the story of a 14-year-old boy growing up in a Roma village in Eastern Slovakia. Šulík is competing at the KVIFF for the third time. His film Garden (Zahrada) was shown in 1995 and, in 2005, The City of the Sun (Sluneční stát) was also in competition. This year, Gypsy will be up against a Russian melodrama, a French comedy, a Danish drama, and two German entrants.

Two other Czech films will be screened in the East of the West section. "The section is characteristic of the KVIFF and is what makes the festival original, so we decided to revise it a bit and try to fill it with the works of young directors from Central and Eastern Europe," says the festival's artistic director, Karel Och. Petr Marek will compete with Nothing Against Nothing (Nic proti ničemu). "It's a satirical comedy resembling [Lars von Trier's and Thomas Vinterberg's] Dogme 95," says Och. "I think it's one of the best films of this year."

Fans looking for the usual "best of Cannes" section Open Eyes will do so in vain. The festival's programmers have cancelled it this year and divided the films among the Horizons and Another View sections. This year you'll be able to see Terrence Malick's latest masterpiece, the Cannes Palme d'Or-winner The Tree of Life; Cannes regular Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre, a tragicomedy set in France that won the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI); and the latest Dardenne brothers' film, The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au vélo) -- a Grand Jury Prize winner that pays tribute to De Sica's triumphant Bicycle Thieves (1948). Last but not least, one film worth mentioning is Habemus papam, in which Nanni Moretti, Italy's most celebrated director, takes an ironic look at the Vatican, telling the fictitious story of a newly elected Pope who has a panic attack prior to accepting the post.

Another obvious change involves the Forum of Independents section. "This year, we chose films for the section not only because of their independent spirit but which were also produced as independent films," Eva Zaoralová, the festival's artistic advisor, told journalists, recommending two films: the Spanish movie The Soul of Flies (El alma de las moscas), which writer/director/producer/editor Jonathan Cenzuan Burley allegedly shot for just 1,000 euros, and Sameh Zoabi's autobiographical debut, Man Without a Cell Phone (Ish li'lo cellularit), about life in a small Palestinian town under Israeli administration.

The section for restored films has been renamed Out of the Past this year, and will include a copy of Markéta Lazarová, František Vláčil's adaptation of a Vladislav Vančura play set in the 13th century, plus Martin Scorsese's legendary Taxi Driver. The section's main focus is on the films of legendary director Elia Kazan, whose work will be remembered through screenings of a restored America, America and the recent Scorsese documentary A Letter to Elia.

Fans of music documentaries will be particularly interested in the section entitled 2011: A Musical Odyssey, in which one film stands out this year. Deconstructing Dad: The Music, Machines and Mystery of Raymond Scott is a unique and balanced yet detailed and personal documentary by Stanley Warnow about his father, the famous Hollywood composer and inventor Raymond Scott. Look for an interview with Stanley, plus regular festival updates, soon.

Beyond the screen
As usual, the festival offers far more than just movies. Musical hotspots include Aeroport, the party venue right on the colonnade run by Prague cinema Kino Aero. Bands including Midi Lidi, Kryštof and Monkey Business will take the stage at Poštovní dvůr on July 2, and Goran Bregović and Gypsy.cz will perform at the open-air cinema on July 3 in support of the senior citizens charity Nadace Taťány Kuchařové - Krása pomoci.

Open-air theatre performances will take place under Chebský most every day at 4pm and 8pm. Families with children can again make use of the services of the children's center set up next to the Thermal hotel, which has prepared a range of fun activities for kids.

For a full program, see the official Karlovy Vary International Film Festival website.

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