Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2010

The West Bohemian spa town plays host to the Czech Republic's biggest movie event

The Karlovy Vary film festival is indisputably the biggest film event of the year, not only for Czech movie buffs but also for filmmakers and festival fans from across Europe.

The festival is the country's only FIAPF-accredited competitive feature film festival and has come a long way since its foundation in 1946, through 40 years of censorship to its "resuscitation" by Jiří Bartoška and Eva Zaoralová in 1994.

Today, it boldly stands alongside such renowned European festivals as Cannes, Berlin or Venice, bringing the best of these festivals plus a wide range of new films to thousands of visitors every year.

From Friday, July 2, the box offices will open again and for the next 10 days, the festival will screen 204 films, including many premieres, and play host to industry guests, journalists, and, above all else, visitors, without whom Karlovy Vary wouldn't be known as "The Backpackers' Festival."

Vary, unlike the glitzy festivals mentioned above, is mainly a festival for people.

No other Category A festival in Europe offers so many accreditation-free visitors a chance to see the films of their choosing and even shake hands and sit down over coffee with filmmakers.

For many visitors, the only roof over their heads for the week of the festival will be a tent or the ceiling of a gymnasium shared with dozens of other guests.

If you don't mind sleeping on the floor of a gym, you can try your luck at the school building at Nábřeží Palacha 1, around 100 meters from the Hotel Thermal. The price per person per night is 99 CZK. Bring your own mat and sleeping bag.

If you prefer sleeping outside -- and the weather looks pretty favorable so far this year -- go to the campsite set up every year at the AC Start Karlovy Vary football stadium, where you'll pay 70 CZK per person/night. There's also a hall where you can sleep if you don't have a tent.

Since the festival attracts more and more people every year, it's always the best to book accommodation well in advance, but if you still haven't done so and would like to find a decent room for two or three, I recommend checking the official Karlovy Vary International Film Festival website's discussion forum for accommodation offers.

Tickets will again be available again from the box offices in front of Hotel Thermal and the Grandhotel Pupp.

I'd recommend a buying a Festival Pass, however. These are available for one, three or five days or for the entire duration of the festival and entitle the holder to see three films per day free of charge. A Festival Pass also allows the holder to attend concerts and -- if there's room -- press conferences, and to swim in the Hotel Thermal pool at a reduced price.

Also through the Pass, you can reserve tickets via SMS text message from 7am every day. (Be punctual -- only a limited number of seats are available this way and are usually gone by 7:05am.)

And who is it that you should be looking for this year?

Jude Law will visit Karlovy Vary to receive the Festival President's Award, while Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov and Slovak director Juraj Herz are both expected to be honored with the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema.

The festival will also welcome iconic film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, whose long-term collaboration with Martin Scorsese has included work on such films as Raging Bull, Gangs of New York, Goodfellas and The Departed.

Schoonmaker will introduce a restored version of The Red Shoes, which, along with six other films, forms part of a tribute to the brilliant British filmmakers Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. Karlovy Vary will also host Pressburger's grandsons, Andrew and Kevin Macdonald --respectively a successful producer and an Oscar-winning director.

And of course, the festival will welcome the creators of the films competing for the festival's main prize, the Crystal Globe, plus the members of the jury that select its winner.

Two-hundred-and-four films are ready to be screened for thousands of visitors. But which ones to choose?

The festival will open with Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges as country singer Otis "Bad" Blake, a performance which won him an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, and close with Heartbreaker, a light romantic comedy starring Vanessa Paradis and Romain Duris that pays tribute to Dirty Dancing.

In between, there are numerous sections to choose from. The main competition features 12 new films, several of which are directorial debuts, and two of which were produced in the Czech Republic: Jan Svěrák's new puppet film Kooky (Kuky se vrací) and the thriller 3 Seasons in Hell (3 sezóny v pekle), based on the early life of underground writer Egon Bondy.

Probably the most sought-after section among film buffs who couldn't make it to Cannes, Berlin or Venice is the Open Eyes section. Cannes-winners such as Certified Copy (Copie conforme), for which Juliette Binoche won the Best Actress Award; Grand Prix-winner Of Gods and Men (Des hommes et des dieux); Jury Prize-winner A Screaming Man (Un homme qui crie); and Poetry (Shi) (Best Screenplay) are just a few of the films to look forward to.

From the other sections, don't miss the Variety Critics' Choice selection entitled Europe Now!, showcasing new European talent.

For lovers of B-movies, the Midnight Screenings section includes a collection of some of the best Ozploitation movies. Films like Dead End Drive-In, Razorback and the documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! are definitely worth staying up late for!

Last but not least, try not to miss the screening in the Grand Hall of Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven, truly a masterpiece of the filmmaking art.

The 2010 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival runs from Friday, July 2 until Saturday, July 10.

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

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