Nation parties at Karlovy Vary

Fest draws young crowds

Should the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival want to christen itself the biggest weeklong film party of the year, it easily could rustle up 10,000 or so enthusiastic recent alumni to support its claim. And sometimes — like when you’re standing in line before breakfast to secure tickets for a few of the next day’s 50 screenings — it seems as if half of the Czech Republic’s college-age population must be in town for the big July bash. (The fest, which lays claims to being the third oldest in the world, draws some of the youngest crowds.)

When the summer sun graces this charming spa town, a haunt of artists and royalty since the days of Goethe, the lure to play hooky can be overpowering. There are woods to be walked, cafes to be sampled, ice cream to be licked before indulging in a massage or more rigorous spa treatment. Crystal and porcelain shops line a milelong stroll between the elegant Pupp Hotel, home to the myriad categories of fest guests and VIPs, and the concrete-block Thermal, housing the ink-stained wretches.

A spot high up in the hierarchy, or at least a taste for gate-crashing, is all it takes to get into the formal midnight sponsor parties. But since these events seem to be attended by more corporate shirts than film pros, there’s even more reason to head for the savvy mix of films lined up by the fest’s respected program director, Eva Zaoralova.

East of the West (a must division for most Western journos) sums up the year’s best from Eastern Europe, while cutting-edge Czech youths head for the Forum of Independents. Variety backs a Critics’ Choice selection that has proven popular.

And even after taking in some prime pics, there’s still time to head for nightlong pool parties or disco till dawn at Hell, a fest club, before lining up to order the next day’s batch of tickets.

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