Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011: Update 1

The latest hits and happenings at the Czech Republic's biggest international film festival

Despite the cold and rainy weather, the first Karlovy Vary International Film Festival statistics released on Tuesday showed the number of visitors exceeded last year's by over a thousand, reaching 10,109 and is still growing.

Perhaps the biggest attraction for visitors was the presence of Judi Dench, who has accepted the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema. Dench compared the Crystal Globe award -- a statuette of a woman holding a globe -- to "Oscar's wife" and promised to introduce them upon her arrival back home. The "Crystal Globe woman" is also the guest star of Jude Law's new festival spot, which has immediately won audiences' hearts. Law, who received the President's Award last year, has chosen wisely in agreeing to a spot in which he decides to replace the stolen Rolls Royce ornament on his car with the Karlovy Vary award.

The festival's now well into its second half and it’s already clear that the Crystal Globe winners won't have it easy this year. All main competition films are excellent pieces of work, be it comedy or drama. From the four I managed to see so far, I was most taken by the German film Cracks in the Shell (Die Unsichtbare), a psychological drama from the world of theatre, depicting the transformation of a young student after she's cast in the main role in a student adaptation of the play Camille and the impact the role has on her own life. Christensen is definitely a clear candidate for Best Actress. However, the Spanish drama about sexual abuse Don't Be Afraid (No tengas miedo) gave me shivers and spread uneasiness in the Grand Hall, while the French hilarious comedy Holidays by the Sea, a tribute to Tati films, was a welcome diversion.

Theatre from another point of view, that of a playwright, is the topic of actor Martin Donovan's directorial debut. Collaborator, which is also in the main competition, stars the director himself alongside David Morse. Both Morse and Donovan came to the spa town to introduce their film, together with producer Ted Hope, an icon of independent cinema whose credits include 21 Grams, American Splendor, and The Savages.

I also had a chance to see Corpo Celeste, one of the two Italian films screened at Cannes, which I highly recommend. Like Habemus Papam, the film's director Alice Rohrwacher chose the topic of hypocrisy in the Italian Catholic Church, using symbolism to point out corruption and duplicity, via the story of a girl's upcoming confirmation.

From the East of the West section I was taken by Belvedere, a film about the refugee camp for survivors of the Srebrenica massacre. The film's director, Ahmed Imamović, uses contrast between black-and-white and color and between the somber and the burlesque to show his perception of the past, present and future for the survivors and for Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole.

Over the next few days, I'll try to catch films from the Young Greek Cinema section, whose directors were due to share their views on contemporary Greek cinema at a masterclass on Wednesday. I don't want to miss Dogtooth (Kynodontas), a visually disturbing/hilarious/controversial film about three siblings influenced by their strange upbringing, which was nominated for Oscar last year; or the award-winning Attenberg, about a girl's adolescence and her perception of human weirdness.

On Thursday, I'm looking forward to the screening of Samuel Fuller's controversial White Dog at Grandhotel Pupp and will try to catch his Palme d'Or-winner The Big Red One, a Word War II drama, on Saturday morning at Kino Drahomíra.

The festival will host more guests over the coming days. John Malkovich -- the actor/director who has returned to the festival to introduce his Technobohemian fashion collection, arrived on Wednesday.

John Turturro and newly crowned Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitová are also expected at the festival over the weekend.

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