ENJOY THE SHOW
There are film festivals that take place in big cities, with screenings at huge performance venues, and lines that go down the block. Then there's festivals that take place in tiny towns, where dedicated cinephiles go to discover amazing films big and small. The Karlovy Vary Film Festival is one of these outstanding little festivals that takes place in a small spa town in
the Czech Republic Czechia. This was my first year attending Karlovy Vary, which I had heard great things about from many colleagues for years, and it lives up to the hype. It's an excellent festival in a beautiful town nestled in the hills, and they show tons of stellar films. Coincidentally, I'd already seen many of their big centerpieces (A Ghost Story, Wind River, The Big Sick, Columbus) at other festivals but was still happy to stop by for a week of catching up with other great films.
Meet Dalibor. He's an industrial painter from the Czech Republic, still living with his mom even though he's almost 40 years old. Dalibor is a neo-Nazi, who doesn't believe that concentration camps were used to kill anyone. He spends his free time drinking with a friend, playing video games, and making weird YouTube videos with cheesy voice distortion and cheap video filters. The White World According to Daliborek is a documentary that follows Dalibor (he's called Daliborek in the English title) as he shows us around his world. While at first it seems like no one is challenging him, slowly but surely he is confronted by the truth. I've never come across anything like this documentary before, it's utterly fascinating and impressively calm.
What is like to grow up as a teen without any limits in modern Berlin? Axolotl Overkill shows us exactly what that life is like, and it's as wild and crazy and totally nonchalant as you might expect. Adapted from a book by Helene Hegemann, Axolotl Overkill follows 16-year-old Mifti around Berlin, as she goes to clubs and parties, drinking and smoking and doing drugs, sleeping wherever, and whenever, with whomever she wants. The film is written and directed by Helene Hegemann, adapting her own novel, and stars German native Jasna Fritzi Bauer as the carefree teen. As aimless as the film is, I couldn't help find it thoroughly engaging and impressively entertaining. Not all of it makes sense, but then again, neither does life anyway.
There are plenty of great films in recent years about finding yourself and staying true to who you are deep down. Freak Show is another one of these films, but it has a refreshingly optimistic feel to it that makes it stand out. I'm not sure how this film got lost in the mix - it first premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, but hasn't played at any other festivals in America yet. I caught it at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival and it's an entertaining, enjoyable, optimistic story about personal identity and fighting back against bullies (not with violence, but with pride and courage). Alex Lawther stars a young, gay high school student named Billy Bloom who dresses up lavishly every day (think: Lady Gaga) yet the film isn't so much about homosexuality as it is about being totally yourself, and finding a way to survive even if you don't fit in with everyone else.