Vítej Zpět! The 54th Karlovy Vary Film Festival in Czechia is Underway
by Alex Billington
June 28, 2019
We're back! We're ready! And we want to watch some films! Kicking off this weekend is the 54th Karlovy Vary Film Festival, a wonderful festival that takes place in a quaint spa town (also known as Carlsbad) in Czechia - just a few hours drive west of Prague. This is my third year in a row returning to the festival, as it's a quick trip down from Berlin and always a fun time. I'm happy to be back, happy to be here, ready to go. Always more to see, always more to discover. 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.
I keep coming back to this festival because it is so chill. Really. There's tons of people in the town (because it is this country's main film festival), and it's buzzing all night long, but it's a much more relaxed festival than Cannes or Sundance. It's easier to catch films, there's over 100 to choose from including lots of holdovers from Cannes and Sundance. And it's just a nice place to relax during the summer and catch some films. The sun is shining, the beer is flowing, the natural springs are always on tap. It's a good time and there's always a few films that I fall in love with. And perhaps a few hidden gems from the line-up waiting to be discovered.
If you're curious about the 2019 line-up, head to the KVIFF website here to see everything showing. Before I get into some of the films I'm planning to catch this year, I have to mention a few of the outstanding films from other festivals that they're screening here. Some of the highlights: After the Wedding, Apollo 11, Late Night, The Lodge, To the Stars, Monos, and Memory: The Origins of Alien from Sundance this year. From Cannes they've brought in the doc Diego Maradona and the fantastic Palme d'Or winner Parasite. Along with Carlos Reygadas' Our Time (trailer here) from Venice last year. System Crasher, Stitches, Light of My Life, and Amazing Grace (the Aretha Franklin doc) all from Berlinale this year. Along with the wonderful tribute doc Varda by Agnès, which also premiered at Berlinale (my full review).
So what's on my list to see at Karlovy Vary? Aside from another round of Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, which I completely loved at Cannes, there's plenty of other films I need to catch up with. I'm planning to see: Peter Strickland's In Fabric (trailer here) which just opened in the UK; Federico Bondi's Dafne from Italy (trailer here), the acclaimed Brazilian film The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão which won the top Un Certain Regard prize in Cannes; another Cannes recommendation - a Moroccan dark comedy titled The Unknown Saint; Marius Olteanu's Monsters from Romania; Henry Golding in a drama titled Monsoon that I'm curious about; plus of course the Forman vs. Forman documentary (trailer here) about Czech filmmaker Milos Forman. And one of my other most anticipated is the film called Lara, a new feature from the German director of cult classic film A Coffee in Berlin (aka Oh Boy) set around Berlin (where I now live).
Here is one of my photos taken on Friday afternoon near the Grandhotel Pupp up at the top of the town:
The 54th edition of this Czech film festival launched on Friday evening, June 28th, with their usual pomp and circumstance including a fireworks show and a live orchestra. The opening ceremony was a tribute to actress Julianne Moore, who is also in town to screen her latest film After the Wedding here. 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 2019 so far.
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.