KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — Hello. My name is Steve, and I’m a Eurofilm addict.
At film fests like Karlovy Vary (July 4-12), where I’ve been sampling the latest in international cinema, European films are the heady intoxicants I can’t avoid. But there’s a quick cure: attending, or in my case, moderating, European film business panels.
You can walk in tipsy and in a few minutes grow stone cold sober.
Let me give you an example:
There were 1,300 young film buffs (think Artfilm Woodstock and you’ve got Karlovy Vary) packed in for the debuting competition screening of Norwegian director Morten Tyldum’s romantic comedy “Buddy.” The response was perhaps the warmest I’ve ever seen in my 10 years attending Karlovy Vary.
I was doubly buzzed, as this response was vivid proof that Eurofilms are becoming more entertaining and exportable.
Then I stepped into the detox chamber — otherwise known as the European Producers Club seminar on East/West European Cooperation.
The org, headed by vet French producer Jean Cazes, tackles the daunting issues facing European filmmakers.
I won’t detail all the grim statistics of minimal market shares, the brutal governmental indifference or the mountainous marketing obstacles these Euro producers face, but it was Unifrance’s Joel Chapron who really cleared my head.
“Isn’t ‘Buddy’ proof that Europeans are making smart and entertaining films that reach audiences outside their home territories?” I asked. “After all, it’s a long way from Oslo to Karlovy Vary and I just saw 1,300 kids go nuts on the film.”
So Chapron performed his intervention:
“Sadly, Steve, the audiences in Europe and America only expect European films to be art films. They see Hollywood films and the films from their own countries for entertainment. They still don’t trust that they can see European films for entertainment.
“Look at the trailers for Spanish-language film ‘Nine Queens’ and the German thriller ‘Das Experiment.’ They’re silent. They have to prove they’re exciting and entertaining and they don’t dare reveal they’re foreign-language films.
“I hope I’m wrong,” Chapron added, “but my fear is that the young people will see ‘Buddy’ in Karlovy Vary but they might not get the chance to see it in regular theaters in Prague.”
For me the glow of that “Buddy” crowd’s openness and affection had faded.
So I immediately went looking for another Eurofilm fix.
There’s no hope for sobriety as long as fests like Karlovy Vary offer opportunities to view the dynamic works of Euro filmmakers and to see so many young people connecting with their films — subtitles, headphone-translations and cultural differences be damned.