Scratch a fest director, find a rocker

Forum of Independents head to perform with band at fest party

“Cannes is over, business is done, let’s have some fun.” This should be the motto of Karlovy Vary Film Festival, according to Stefan Uhrik, who together with his wife Hana Cielova heads the Forum of Independents at the festival.

Uhrik is also one of the Three Stefans and the Festival Band that will be headlining the Variety Shooting Stars party at the festival once again this year.

He’ll be joined by Warsaw Film Festival director Stefan Laudyn and Sofia Film Festival director Stefan Kitanov.

“We had all been friends for many years, but I never knew the other guys played music until I saw Laudyn playing classical guitar at a party in Cannes three years ago,” says Kitanov, the band’s founder, who sang in a chamber choir in Sofia in his youth. “Uhrik had played in a blues band in Bratislava, but he had not played guitar for 20 years until we convinced him to join us.”

The only time the three busy fest directors get to practice is when they meet up at other festivals like Berlin or Venice. The seven-member band, which plays strictly for fun, has already managed to find time to play gigs at festivals in Sarajevo, Berlin, Sofia and Utrecht. Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos, who booked the group for KV last year, recalls: “I figured they might not be great, but that was OK. To my surprise, they were great and made it the best party we’ve had in the nearly 10 years of Critics’ Choice events.”

Coming out of the closet as musicians has not only given the fest helmers a chance to have some fun, it has also produced some surprising revelations about their colleagues, as when director Volker Schloendorff leaped onto the stage in Sofia this year. The band had just launched into a rendition of one of their favorites, the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” It seems Schloendorff was one of the original studio backing singers who sang “Hoo Hoo-ooo” when the song was first recorded.

Berlin Fest helmer Dieter Kosslick joined the band on guitar in Berlin this year, and Aki Kaurismaki star Maria Jarvenhelmi has promised to join the band in Karlovy Vary for a few numbers, following in the footsteps of her famous mother, Kirsi Tykkylainen, of the Finnish Film Foundation, who performed with the Leningrad Cowboys.

“It’s all part of the Karlovy Vary philosophy,” says Uhrik, “which means having fun, feeling relaxed and actually living life, not just seeing films.”

Rock music on film will also be on show in this year’s Forum of Independents, which will screen “Don’t Look Back,” capturing Bob Dylan’s 1965 U.S. tour, and “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” David Bowie’s classic 1973 concert. Both films are part of a salute to documentarian D.A. Pennebaker.

As for the Three Stefans’ future on the festival circuit, Kitanov says, “It’s only rock ‘n’ roll.”

But they like it.

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