Back at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in Czechia - Always More Films
by Alex Billington
July 1, 2022
I'm going going, back back, to Czechia Czechia. I've been coming to the Karlovy Vary Film Festival for years, but with the COVID-19 pandemic I took a break during 2020 and 2021. The last time I was here was in 2019 and honestly, it's great to be back again. This wonderful festival takes place in a tiny resort town located on the west side of Czechia, close to the German border. Having come here for years, and with the festival now celebrating its 56th year, I would argue that Karlovy Vary is an A-list festival, one of the most important and exciting festivals in Europe that takes place right after Cannes. Half the reason I go to KVIFF (as it's known for short) is to catch up with more of the Cannes films I missed. And perhaps even see a few of my favorites again - they're showing Park Chan-wook's Decision to Leave and Lukas Dhont's Close, and I'm considering grabbing tickets for these two which were my #1 + #2 favorites from the Cannes 2022. More than anything, I'm mainly here to watch more films. Always be watching - as I've written in the past.
Part of the reason Karlovy Vary is an iconic and important European film festival is their impressive legacy, celebrating 56 years so far. On top of the fact that there have been a good number of truly amazing Czech filmmakers (Milos Forman, Jirí Menzel, Věra Chytilová, etc) that have made their mark on cinema history, the festival has established itself by fighting to show some of the best films from all over the world. Not only do they screen a bunch of the finest films from Berlinale, Sundance, and Cannes, bringing them to cinema-hungry audiences of all ages in Czechia (formerly known as the Czech Republic), they also showcase world premieres from neighboring Eastern Europe countries and even some American indies that haven't shown up anywhere else yet (the coming-of-age The True Adventures of Wolfboy premiered here back in 2019). If you're a cinema geek and you're in Europe in July, you have to make the trek to Karlovy Vary one year. Or every year! Why not!? It's a lovely town and you can see so many stellar films and meet other cinema geeks.
Browsing through the 2022 line-up, I first need to point out all of the films they're showing that I have seen from other fests that I think are great films anyway: David Cronenberg's Crimes of the Future, Felix van Groeningen & Charlotte Vandermeersch's The Eight Mountains (a Cannes fave), Jerzy Skolimowski's EO, Sara Dosa's Fire of Love, Léa Mysius' The Five Devils, Sophie Hyde's Good Luck to You Leo Grande, Kiro Russo's El Gran Movimiento, Saim Sadiq's Joyland, Maryna Er Gorbach's Klondike, Martika Ramirez Escobar's Leonor Will Never Die, Max Walker-Silverman's A Love Song, Mikhaël Hers' The Passengers of the Night, Signe Baumane's My Love Affair with Marriage (animation for adults), Brett Morgen's Moonage Daydream (Bowie rules!!), Andreas Dresen's Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush, Ruijun Li's Return to Dust (about Chinese farmers), Lola Quivoron's Rodeo, Jean-Luc Herbulot's Saloum, Quentin Dupieux's Smoking Causes Coughing, George Miller's 3 Thousand Years of Longing, Ruben Östlund's Triangle of Sadness, as well as Alejandro Loayza Grisi's Utama.
As for my own line-up of films to watch at KVIFF this year, I'm trying to catch some of the highly acclaimed Cannes gems I missed, including Charlotte Wells' Aftersun, Maryam Touzani's The Blue Caftan, Marie Kreutzer's Corsage, and Hlynur Pálmason's Godland. There's also a few premieres I'm hearing good buzz about: Andrea Bagney's Ramona from Spain, Tomasz Wiński's Borders of Love from Czechia, and Jake Paltrow's new film June Zero, about the infamous trial of Adolf Eichmann. I always try to catch a few old Czech films they're screening as part of the retrospective / restoration section, and this year I'm planning to watch Jaromil Jireš' film The Joke, from 1968. The classics line-up also includes Back to the Future, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, The Last Waltz, Wild at Heart, and The Wizard of Oz. And even though I'm not a big David Lynch fan (sorry folks just not my jam), I'm curious to see this doc Lynch/Oz from director Alexandre O. Philippe, exploring the strange connection between The Wizard of Oz and Lynch's film career.
One of my favorite things about attending an international film festival is that I'm the odd one out, I'm the "international" guest this time. Most screenings here are 90% Czech people, who come in from all over the country to watch new films for the next 9 days (there's tickets + waitlist queues). The fest is famous for its campground, where youngsters (and anyone) can camp out and stay nearby for cheap while still catching films. The fest is also famous for these young cinephiles packing the venues, sitting on the ground or finding anywhere to watch. That's the spirit of Karlovy Vary – it's a festival for cinema lovers, put on by cinema lovers. A celebration of bringing fantastic films to Czechia, and also a celebration of filmmaking in general. After taking a break for a few years, I'm honored to be back, excited to start watching. I hope I can bring more attention to the films and the fest because they all deserve it. I often feel it's my duty to be a cinema trailblazer, to venture into foreign lands and watch watch watch to find the best new films and report back.