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Plzen 2004 by Oscar Foran, Ireland (English)


"Sentiment" by Tomas Hejtmanek won the DQ Award at Plzen this Year
Festival of Czech Films Finále Plzen¡
29th March - 4th April 2004

Well, there’s nothing like alighting from a plane and seeing your name in bold type held aloft in the waiting area, that gives one a certain swagger and confidence that may belie your true merits. Within a couple of hours of having ensconced myself in the hotel, a very pleasant lady arrived along with a gift bag including schedule, film lists, etc. Eleven feature films to be watched and as a whole I would have to say the standard was quite high. Considering the Czech Republic only has a population of 10 million the sheer volume of Czech films involved in this festival was impressive.

Screenings were nearly all in the main cinema with some closed screenings. I also attended a number of documentary screenings when the schedule allowed, somehow managing to sit in a cinema for 8 hours on one of the days!

The FICC jury arrived at a decision very quickly with Champions receiving a special mention and Sentiment winning the Don Quixote award. Sentiment is a beautiful quasi-documentary about Czech cinematographer Frantis¡ek Vlác¡il ,wistful, entrancing and beautifully shot it only took a coffee length to make the decision. It’s a testament to how good Sentiment is, that it won despite the fact that it wasn’t subtitled. Having a translator in headphones is definitely not the ideal way to have a film communicated. It’s one of the only ways I can fault the festival. For some reason despite the fact that they had the scripts in front of them, the translators seemed bent on delivering the translations after the respective actors had finished delivering their lines!

The main jury award went to Faithless Games, which I disagreed strongly with but such are the vagaries of personal opinions.

One of the very special aspects of the festival was the support shown by actors and directors. All of the films screened had representatives on stage to introduce the film or afterwards for Q&A sessions. For Bolero (ironically the worst film shown) there were 7 people on stage to promote it.

It’s a particularly refreshing feature for anyone interested in film, knowing that they can freely chat to directors and actors (as long as you speak Czech). At the closing celebration in the Pilsner factory we spent at least an hour chatting to Tomas Hejtmanek, director of Sentiment.

There are lots of elements to any film festival but really I suppose it’s like going out to dinner, at the end of the of the day it can be distilled down to two things, the quality of the main meal and the quality of everything that goes around it. In this case Finále Plzen¡ can be proud of both. The films were, on a whole, of a very good standard and the atmosphere and hospitality shown me while staying there was exemplary.

Would I go again? Must check my phrasebook to see what ‘yes’ is in Czech….

Oscar Foran

The Jury of the International Federation of Film Societies IFFS at the festival Finále Plzen¡ gives its Don Quijote award to Sentiment.

Don Quijote Award:

"This is a film which exemplifies what Czech cinema can be at it's new zenith. Fashioned by director Tomas Hejtmánek it absorbs you into the world of Czech cinematographer Frantis¡ek Vlác¡il through a virtuoso performance by actor Jir¡í Kodet. Exemplary cinematography combines with wistful dialogue to produce an unmatched emotional connection to the central character."