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Karlovy Vary 40. International film festival 2005 by Renata Vášová, Czech Republic

As a member of the International jury of FICC I had experienced Karlovy Vary for the first time not through the every early morning rush for desired tickets, but I could really feel the atmosphere of the whole event, where hundreds of movies are screened and hundreds of spectators are excited and some are disappointed (as the result of sold out tickets, long queues, expensive food and drink, bad weather, or because of the lack of real film art). But thanks to the free time which I spent waiting in queus last years I could also notice how many important meetings are made during the festival, how the people from the film industry are trying to meet the „right“ person, how everybody wants to get the „right“ invitation to the 'that' party and how these deals are made “behind the scene”. During the festival days one Czech distribution company (Cinemart) bought a film from the competition section (Chinaman) for distribution in Czech cinemas - the film should be released in February 2006.
But movies are always the first priority in Karlovy Vary, where you can meet almost all the creative team from each of the screened films and freely ask them whatever you want to and what interests you. As a member of the jury I was bound to go through all the competition movies (14), which meant seeing two films everyday. As the days went by I asked myself why all the good movies were “out of competition” in the other sections. Most of the movies chosen for the competition represent a kind of a compromise of a film art, which is mostly unimpressive, without deeper layers, that would really move the spectators. I consider it unnecessary to list all of them because most of them fall into the group of easily forgettable and unsurprising film products.
In first place I should point out the Japanese film Noriko´s Dinner Table (2005, Sion Sono, Japan), which the FICC jury awarded the Don Quijote Award. The decision of the jury above all is arrived at by the topical and important themes of film, which include the fading of fiction into reality in contemporary world, human dependence on artificial realities and the influence of these aspects on intimate family relationships and also individual characters.
For the jury it was also essential, that complicated relationships among the characters as well the characters themselves, their estrangement, misunderstanding, loneliness were expressed in adequate film language – by the use of cuts, camera movement and position. It was one of the only films from the competition, that tried to to break through the film borders to explore a new territory.
Special Mention went to a Polish movie My Nikifor (2004, Krysztof Krauze, Poland). The Jury has considered the unpretentious nature of the film narration supported by excellent acting (the main man role is played by Polish actress Krystyna Feldman who was also honoured for this role by the Grand Jury) and camera work. Thanks to these devices authors were able to unaffectedly and with a sensitive point of view tell the story about the relationship of a naive and an academic painter. Another positive aspect of the film was the progress of the changing relationship between also both characters, which goes through different changes of roles and engages spectator more and more intensively.
Another point on both selections by the FICC jury is the fact that the Japanese movie got a special mention from the Grand Jury and the Polish film received the main award of Karlovy Vary festival.
Neither of these two films represent the best of the competition, even though either of them could be considered as the most qualitative example of the contemporary cinematography. Films such as Chinaman (2005, d. Henrik Ruben Genz, Denmark/China), Unveiled (2005, d. Angelina Maccarone, Germany and Austria) and What a Wonderful Land (2005, d. Eyal Halfon, Israel) represent the following another section of the competition. They have lots in common - individual process in dealing with an illusion and disillusion, with difference, intolerance, misunderstanding and social violence. The plots deal with personal stories of individuals or small groups of people, which have to face hostile surroundings. In most cases, personal crises are solved with empathy - the characters usually looking for and some times finding positive ways to overcome social extremes and injustice.
Two films from the competition dealt with the history of the country of its origin - Russian film Driver for Vera (2004, d. Pavel Chukhrai, Russia) mixed Russia's history with a far too fictional and unlikely story of a prominent daughter and drive of her father. On the contrary a famous Hungarian director Márta Mészáros film delivers an historical person Imre Nágy as realistic and close as possible in a feature film. Her film Unburied Man (2004, Márta Mészáros, Hungary/Poland/Slovakk Republic) can be considered from the point of view of a documentary film depicting the individual's life in historically important times. The feature debut of an Iranian actor Ali Mosffa: Portrait of a Lady Faraway represents an interesting contribution to the competition. But its selfishness and its superiority exclude any possible communication with the audience .
In comparison with the official selection, one could in some of the other sections experience the best of the contemporary world cinema - especially in the section Horizons (Bin-Jip, Diaros de Motocicleta, Don’t Come Knocking, L´Enfant, Hwal, O Héroi, Turtles Can Fly, Manderlay, Palindromes, Sun, Fateles, The Wayward Cloud, Carmen from Khayelitshe; Va, Vis et Deviens, Where the True Lies etc). Also the Forum of Independents introduced lots of inspirational films in various kinds of ways. Karlovy Vary screened a retrospective of Alexander Payne´s work, and he himself spent a few days in the town and kindly communicated with audience.
To recap I would say that Karlovy Vary Festival is a great opportunity for a wide audience to watch lots of films which is appreciated by both the international film critics and the audience. The festival is open to everybody and is very friendly to its visitors. The also presented “Tributes” are well chosen (Sam Peckinpah, Liv Ullman, Robert Redford) as well as the documentary section. But at the end it is sad that the competition section is the weakest chain in the whole festival organisation.

Renata Vášová, Czech Republic - Association of Czech Film Clubs