Czech event adds indie competish

PRAGUE — Prague’s booming Febiofest opened March 31 with an expanded new home, a new indie prize and a slate of 336 film and video screenings of world cinema, docus and shorts.

Having sorted out crowding and ticketing problems, fest has settled into Village Cinemas Andel in Prague’s Smichov district, a tradeoff from its former location in the prime downtown real estate of the Slovansky dum retail complex.

The National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square also has been pressed into service.

Fest kicked off with Hungarian helmer Istvan Szabo’s “Being Julia.” The nine-day event, now in its 12th year, has picked up another major sponsor, pharmaceuticals firm Zentiva, enabling it to expand its program.

“We’re trying to screen films from really difficult territories,” said program director Premysl Martinek, citing new films from Georgia and Iraq’s “Underexposure,” a look at post-Saddam daily life by Oday Rasheed.

An official competition of indie films has been added, but it’s the Personalities sidebar, started last year, that’s attracting heat. Among those introducing retrospectives of their work are Japanese helmer Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Hal Hartley, much loved in the Czech Republic, presenting the European premiere of his “The Girl From Monday.”

Another European premiere, Eugene Jarecki’s Sundance docu winner “Why We Fight,” leads the non-feature offerings. Meanwhile, helmers such as Argentina’s Hernan Iglesias, presenting “Prince Gomez,” will fill out feature screenings.

Fest’s dedication to arthouse fare, otherwise hard to catch in the Czech Republic, generally results in packed screenings, all offered at low cost, this year to auds expected to number around 150,000.

Most of the fest remains organized around regions of the globe, but this year the Febiofest ,usic festival and Febiofest Junior, a minifest of films for kids, complement the main event.

Fest wraps up with the Kristian Lifetime Achievement Award, which will go to Spanish helmer Carlos Saura. Fest tours 12 other cities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia after wrapping in Prague.

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