Feed Me Cinema - Back for More Karlovy Vary Film Festival Goodness
by Alex Billington
June 29, 2018
I'm back! Back in the Karlovy Vary groove..! Kicking off this weekend is the 53rd Karlovy Vary Film Festival, a wonderful festival that takes place in a lovely little spa town (also known as Carlsbad) in Czechia - just a few hours drive west of Prague. This is my second year back to the festival, as I stopped by last year for my very first time. And I am so happy to be back. I think I'm falling in love with this festival! The town, the people, it's wonderful. There's an undeniable cinephile vibe, campsites for those who can't afford hotels, the venues are vintage cinemas or old theater halls converted into temporary cinemas. Best of all, Karlovy Vary has a stellar line-up and that's why I'm here - to catch up with and see lots of films over the next week.
The 53rd edition of this Czech film festival launched on Friday evening, June 29th, with their usual pomp and circumstance including a fireworks show and a live orchestra. The opening ceremony was a tribute to the late Miloš Forman, the iconic Czech-American filmmaker, who passed away earlier this year. With the festival underway, it's time to dive into all of the films and focus on the power of storytelling. Karlovy Vary may not be a major festival on the minds of American cinephiles, but it's certainly a festival worth knowing - especially if you love cinema. It takes place a little over a month after the Cannes Film Festival, and they bring in some of the best features from Sundance, Berlinale, and Cannes, along with their own premieres of Eastern European films and a few other features from around the world. The best of the best of 2018 so far.
We already featured the first trailers for three international films premiering at Karlovy Vary - Darya Zhuk's Crystal Swan, Peter Brunner's To the Night, and Ivan I. Tverdovskiy's Jumpman. I'm planning to see these three, as well as (hopefully) around 10 to 20 other films between now and next Friday. The Karlovy Vary Film Festival runs for eight days, from June 29th to July 7th, and brings in huge crowds to this tiny town. This is the main festival for all of Czechia, so locals from every corner of the country (and Germany nearby) drop in for parties and red carpet gawking and hopefully a film or two or three. One of my film critic colleagues first introduced me to this festival years ago, and I'm glad I can now attend as well. Now I know firsthand why it's such a beloved, and highly regarded, film festival that cinephiles return to year after year.
If you're curious about the 2018 line-up, head to the KVIFF website here to see everything showing. Before I get into some of the films I'm planning to see this year, I have to mention a few of the outstanding films from other festivals that they're screening here. Some of the highlights: Styx and Profile from Berlinale; The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Leave No Trace, Mandy all from Sundance; The Green Fog and The Interpreter from Berlinale; the incredible Brazilian werewolf genre refresher Good Manners; Damsel from Sundance/Berlinale; the fantastic documentary Chris the Swiss from Critics' Week in Cannes; the super weird Swedish breakout Border from Un Certain Regard in Cannes; the Danish film The Guilty from Sundance; Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman and Pawel Pawlikowski's Cold War from Cannes.
For the films I'm hoping to catch: Birds of Passage and In My Room, both of which I missed in Cannes; documentaries including Black Mother, Trash on Mars, Nothing Like Before, and something titled ★ about the stars, of course; the Polish film Fugue from filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska (of The Lure); a Czech skateboarding doc titled King Skate; the Quebecois coming-of-age film The Fireflies Are Gone; a Japanese film titled River's Edge; an Ukrainian film titled Volcano; a Polish relationship drama titled 53 Wars; Andrew Bujalski's latest film Support the Girls, Polish comedy anthology film Panic Attack, and a stop-motion animated film about the space dog Laika. Plus, anything else that sounds interesting that I can fit into my seven day schedule. Hopefully I'll discover something amazing here, seeing as much as I can.
And if this is not enough for hungry cinephiles, they're also showing crazy fun classics like Big Trouble in Little China, Predator, Bloodsport, plus The Deer Hunter; and other great films from filmmakers Barry Levinson and Richard Linklater (both of whom are being honored here this year). This festival is known for its especially remarkable line-up, and this year seems particularly unforgettable. It's not always about premieres, it's about showing great films or classics we can all enjoy watching on the big screen again. And yes, the venues here are crowded - sometimes people sit on the floor and pack in because they don't want to miss anything. You can always tell when a festival is so dedicated to the glory of cinema they attract a good crowd of film lovers, not celebrity chasers. This is one of those fests that attracts the real cinephiles.
As usual, you can follow my updates from KVIFF on Twitter @firstshowing throughout the festival. I'll be posting reviews and other blog recaps on the site as the festival continues on. You can also find my photos on Instagram @abillington. I also now list all the films I've seen on my Letterboxd @firstshowing, if you want more thoughts on all of the films I'm watching. And now - it's time to get some sleep before more films.