Karlovy Vary festival announces first films

A retrospective of the Wild Nineties and restored Egyptian film are planned

The 54th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival runs June 28 to July 6 at the West Bohemian spa town of the same name.

The main graphic for this year’s festival was unveiled, and it is an optical illusion that shows the number 54 from a distance, but looks like a series of parallel lines up close. It was designed by graphic artist Jakub Spurný of Studio Najbrt. The studio has collaborated with the festival since 1995, making 25 logos.

“The visual design … continues to work with a simple typography that plays with numbers and emphasizes visibility. Some people may find references to lines of horizontal resolution on a television screen, while others will be reminded of the classic Czechoslovak film The Incredibly Sad Princess,” Studio Najbrt’s creative director Michal Nanoru said.

“In any case, just like when watching the big screen, it’s a good idea to look at the poster from a distance,” he added.

Some of the film retrospectives and prize winners have been announced. The KVIFF President’s Award will go to cinematographer Vladimír Smutný. He is a seven-time winner of the Czech Lion for Best Cinematography, and a two-time winner of a Czech Film Critics’ Award.

He is most famous for his work with Jan and Zdeněk Svěrák. After the Oscar-winning Kolja (1996), their collaboration continued with Dark Blue World (2001), Empties (2007), Kooky (2010), Three Brothers (2014), and Barefoot (2017). He has worked on other films as well such as Lea (1996), King of Thieves (2003), Tender Waves (2013) Patrimony (2018), Smart Philip (2003), Tobruk (2008) and the recently completed The Painted Bird (2019).

The festival also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution with a selection of seven movies shot in 1989–92. The “wild nineties” gave filmmakers’ new artistic freedom.

Tomáš Vorel captured the transformation of communism into democracy in his cult hit Smoke (1991), a tale of an engineer’s conflict with a bizarre factory’s petrified organizational structure.

Irena Pavlásková showed the absurd nature of life in pre-revolution Czechoslovakia in her psychological thriller Time of the Servants (1989).

Filip Renč’s debut Requiem for a Maiden (1991) is based on true events from the 1980s when a 14-year-old girl is mistakenly sent to a home for mentally disabled girls.

Jan Němec, who spent 15 years in exile, caused an uproar with The Flames of Royal Love (1990), based loosely on a novel.

Juraj Jakubisko made It’s Better to Be Wealthy and Healthy Than Poor and Ill (1992), a tale of two women who throw themselves into business.

The series concludes with Věra Chytilová’s morality tale The Inheritance Fuckoffguysgoodday (1992).

The festival continues its tradition of premiere screenings of digitally restored classics of Czech cinema with a seminal work of the 1960s Czechoslovak New Wave, director Juraj Herz’s The Cremator.

This dark tale was adapted from a Gothic novel by author Ladislav Fuks, tracking an ordinary man’s transformation into a psychopathic killer.

Rudolf Hrušínský appears as the title character, and Vlasta Chramostová portrays his wife in one of her last roles before being blacklisted. A similar fate befell her husband, cinematographer Stanislav Milota, who gave the black-and-white film its visual style.

After premiering in 1969 it was banned and not shown in cinemas again until 1990.

The festival is also honoring the late Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine (1926-2008) with a retrospective of 11 remastered films spanning from 1950 to 1986. All the movies in the program – the biggest of its kind to be featured at any international film fest – are part of an internationally backed Chahine restoration project.

Five of the restored films are making their festival premiere at Karlovy Vary this year.

“A thorough look at the work of Youssef Chahine has long been overdue in Eastern Europe,” festival artistic director Karel Och said.

Nearly half the program is dedicated to lesser-seen early works, including his debut Daddy Amin (1950), a fantasy comedy about a family patriarch who watches the transformation of his household after his death, and My One and Only Love (1957), one of Egypt’s most beloved musical comedies about a man and woman who are forced into a marriage of convenience before they gradually fall in love with each other.

Youssef Chahine won the 1979 Silver Bear for Alexandria Why? (1978) at the Berlinale. Five of his films were nominated for Cannes’s Palme d’Or, and in 1997 he was presented with the festival’s 50th Anniversary Prize for lifetime achievement.

The festival’s tradition of creating unique trailers continues with Czech actress and KVIFF President’s Award laureate Jiřina Bohdalová. The trailer was shot by director Martin Krejčí. Jiřina Bohdalová received the KVIFF President’s Award for outstanding contribution to Czech cinema in 2016.

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