Tim Robbins, Richard Linklater kick off Karlovy Vary

Big stars helped get the 53rd edition of the festival rolling

The 53rd edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is under way. The opening ceremony looked at the 100 years since the founding of Czechoslovakia, and also paid tribute to director Miloš Forman, who died earlier this year. Actor Tim Robbins and director Richard Linklater were among the early guests.

The opening ceremony was followed by a public concert with Carl Davis conducting the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in music from Forman’s films including Amadeus and Hair, as well as his early Czech work. One of the oddest moments was when Davis arrived on stage in a hippy gown and sang the disco song “I Will Survive” from the soundtrack of Forman’s Man on the Moon. The concert ended with fireworks.

The first big star to arrive was Tim Robbins, who took the opportunity to comment on politics not only when he received his Crystal Globe at the opening, but also when the introduced the film Bob Roberts, about a populist right-wing folk singer and politician’s campaign and when he introduced an outdoor screening of The Shawshank Redemption.

At the opening, he criticized US President Donald Trump for his treatment of refugees, and for policies that he said ran against the spirit that America was founded on.

He compared the situation to Back to the Future, with society running in reverse to an era of bullying, racism and intolerance. Robbins auditioned for a role in the film but did not get it.

“Do not underestimate the power of stories to transform lives. We have to fight with our talent and wit and love to resist oppression,” he said in conclusion at the opening.

In an interview before the ceremony, he apologized to the world for what America had become. People are starting to wake up to the situation, finally, he said.

“I warned you,” he said to a packed audience for Bob Roberts. He added that many things in the 1992 mockumentary had come true. Trump, for example, also avoided military service and was a fan of beauty pageants, Robbins said.

Despite the political talk, Robbins was in a good mood, smiling broadly at the turnout for a morning screening of his film. Before taking his seat, he ran around the aisles giving audience members high fives.

At a press conference after Bob Roberts, he talked a mix of his career and politics. When asked why he gave such a political speech at the opening, he said: “I tried making my speech in the hotel room, but nobody heard it.”

He added that free speech is not just the right to say things that are comfortable for people to hear, but the right to raise voices in opposition. Too many people have been being silent out of fear, he said. “To know something and to not say anything, to me, is a betrayal of what a democracy is,” he said.

He called the recent US Supreme Court decision that allowed Trump’s travel ban against predominantly Muslim countries a “disgrace” that would long be remembered.

Robbins and his theater group in the US, the Actors’ Gang, has been staging a play called The New Colossus, which deals with immigrant stories. Everyone in the US, aside from indigenous people, is an immigrant or a descendant of immigrants.

Despite his strong feelings, he has no ambitions to run for political office. “It really changes people,” he said.

He also commented on the #metoo movement, saying that it was important for the dynamic to change so women had equality in the workplace. He also pointed out that people shouldn’t have their careers ruined based on accusations and innuendo. “That is mob rule,” he said. Allegations should be pursued in legal venues, he added.

On a less controversial note, he praised filmmaker Miloš Forman for the humanity in his films. Robbins said he met with Forman in New York to discuss a film project, but Forman walked away from it. Forman said the studio had made a poster based on their idea for the film, and Forman could see it was not the film he wanted to make. “I found his integrity truly inspiring and it was always a touchstone in my own career,” Robbins said.

As for career advice, he said that actors should think that audience went to some trouble to see the show. “Never assume the person could afford the ticket. … Think maybe they walked five miles to see the show because they didn’t have bus fare,” he said.

As an actor he always tries to give the audience respect because out of all the things the audience member could do they chose to see your show.

Richard Linklater was less political, but he did mention that Austin, Texas, is a liberal island in a conservative state. He is at the festival to promote a package of films made in Texas, and the work of the Austin Film Society, which he founded in 1985.

He introduced his 1989 film Slacker, and said he was amazed that almost 30 years after it was made that people were still seeing it. The film was shot on a very low budget using the help of friends. At the time he was hoping to make a different film, but that one still has not been made.

Slacker, he said, captured a moment at the end of the Reagan administration and start of the Bush administration when there were no jobs and rents were low. The street where he filmed had both a university and a mental institution, and you never knew if you were talking to a professor or an outpatient. The city has changed a lot since then, he said.

At a press conference, he said he has tried to keep his independent spirit and has avoided Hollywood films, mostly because he does not see a way to fit his creativity into the Hollywood mold.

His scripts tend to very dialogue-oriented, which goes against the idea that films should show and not tell. He also addressed the idea that his films were more European than American, saying that there was more to American cinema than big blockbusters. But he did cite the French New Wave and New German Cinema movements as influences.

Filmmakers simply have to do things, and not sit back and ponder who their influences are.

He liked the idea that almost anybody could be a filmmaker now. The art form has become more like painting or writing, where you don’t need somebody’s permission or support to do something.

But this also means more competition for getting into film festivals. But it is not the “best time” to be a filmmaker.

He also made a surprise appearance to introduce the 1983 film Last Night at the Alamo, which was just restored. He used the film as a chance to discuss the early days of independent cinema in Texas, including how Texas Chainsaw Massacre came about.

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