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Karlovy Vary is Euro biz center

EFA meets, Menemsha buys

KARLOVY VARY — Karlovy Vary’s opening weekend found returning European industryites confirming the Czech film fest’s appeal.

The European Film Academy has already completed its third annual board meeting in Karlovy Vary. EFA board president Nik Powell told Daily Variety that EFA now uses its get-together at the fest to kick off discussion on selections for its annual film awards.

And European Film Promotion opened its fourth official presence at the festival July 7, in connection with the Variety Critics’ Choice section.

While the festival still has a long way to go before it begins to function as a market, the opening of a film biz office signals an increasingly professional atmosphere.

Menemsha Entertainment’s Neil Friedman is attending for a second year. Friedman picked up Oscar entry “Divided We Fall” in 2001, and already has two Czech acquisitions: Vladimir Michalek’s “Autumn Spring” (Critics’ Choice) and documentary competition entry Matej Minac’s “The Power of Good.”

Documentaries are big this year. Even outside the official competition, documentaries and mocumentaries are drawing audiences.

Czech helmer Petr Zelenka returned to the music mocumentary theme with his opening night competition entry “The Year of the Devil,” already a local box office hit.

Meanwhile, a British accent is looking like a prerequisite for the stars at the festival.

Michael York, “Bend It Like Beckham”‘s Kiera Knightly and Ben Chaplin turned up for the opening weekend, with Stephen Fry, Greg Wise, helmer John Boorman and Saffron Burrows due early in the week, and Sean Connery capping the festival with a closing weekend appearance.

Competition got off to a slow start, but some critics and pros had praise for debut film “Leaving by the Way” from Latvia’s Viesturs Kairiss and Austrian entry “Gebirtig” from helmers Lukas Stepanik and Robert Schindel. Audience response was especially strong for Caroline Link’s German entry, “Nowhere In Africa.”

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