KVIFF hits midway point

More stars have arrived and few more films stand out

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has reached its midway point, and several more guests have presented their films. The festival has also had some gems hidden in the schedule, though not everyone agrees on what they are.

Film director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty each received a Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema.

“I was in Karlovy Vary for the first time in 1967 I believe, and the atmosphere prevailing then was optimistic. When I came back in 1970, the mood had changed considerably. I was all the more pleased that the festival then awarded us the main prize for the film Kes, which we filmed in August 1968 whilst listening to news of tanks in Prague,” Loach said when receiving his Crystal Globe.

Ken Loach at a press conference listed some of his artistic influences, praising Italian neorealist directors of the 1950s, but he said if he had to take one group of films with him to a dessert island, they would be Czechoslovak films from the 1960s. He praised their human touches and their simplicity.

Paul Laverty praised the festival for recognizing collaboration. Loach and Laverty have worked together on 12 films. Loach added that writing and directing are different skills, and there is too much emphasis on turning writers into directors and directors into writers. He also commented on current affairs such as Brexit, but declined to say what he is now working on.

Two of his older films were shown at the festival, Land and Freedom, about the Spanish Civil War, and Sweet Sixteen, about a young person's descent into a spiral of crime. Most of their films touch on social issues and the failings of society to protect its most vulnerable members.

Another film dealing with politics was A Campaign of their Own, a Swiss documentary about the efforts of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to get the nomination of the Democratic Party to run for president.

The film is running in the documentary competition, and director Lionel Rupp and producer Michael David Mitchell answered questions from the audience after the screening. Karlovy Vary is only the second place in the world to see the film, following a premiere in France. The filmmakers said that they had the idea to make the film when they were in Switzerland and four days later were in New York with a camera. They realized they would not be able to follow Sanders on the campaign trail so they focused on a small group of his supporters.

Their sincerity helped them to gain access to people's homes, where they filmed discussions and other events.

Lionel Rupp said there was only one moment where they did any coaching of what someone should do, otherwise it was not planned or scripted.

The filmmakers shot in New York for a few days and then got some money together for return visit to capture the events around the nomination, again with the same Bernie supporters.

Currently they are looking for distribution not only in the US but worldwide, as they feel the story of the rise of the progressive movement can resonate in other countries.

Another guest at the festival was Jasmine Trinca for the Italian film Fortunata, which showed in the Horizons section. The film is about a free-spirited hair dresser and her troubles with an abusive spouse she is divorcing and a rebellious daughter. “Fortunata is an important film for me. We deliberated about it a lot, and filming it was difficult for me because, unlike Fortunata, I am very timid. But I think that you will see something authentic nevertheless,” she said when introducing the film.

The competition for the main prize had another strong entry with a Slovak and Ukrainian production called Čiara. It is set on the border, just as Slovakia is about to join the Shengen zone. The plot involves cigarette smugglers and a people smugglers. Gangsters are coming into increasing conflict as the changes to border security are about to be implemented.

Fans of strange films liked the science fiction film How to Talk to Girls at Parties, based on a story by Neil Gaiman. Elle Fanning stars and Nicole Kidman has a supporting role. The same two actresses appeared in The Beguiled, which was also at the festival.

The film is set in the punk era in England, and involves a sort of invasion by an alien cult. The film played to applause. It was full of ideas and certainly a change of pace though it tries to hard to be a cult film.

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