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‘Window’ dresses up Karlovy Vary festival

Pic nabs Crystal Globe, director, actress nods

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — Italian commercial and critical success “La finestra di fronte” (Facing Window) launched its international career with three top prizes at the 38th edition of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, which wrapped Saturday. Pic took home the grand prix Crystal Globe as well as nods for director (Ferzan Ozpetek) and actress (Giovanna Mezzogiorno).

But it wasn’t only the Italians who won. In a thumbs up for the festival, the “Facing Window” filmmakers turned down a non-competition slot at Cannes for the chance at Karlovy Vary, which had been bypassed by the better Italian films in past years. Given the fest’s track record of premiering and awarding future Oscar nominees, “Facing Window” looks like a film to watch.

Artistic director Eva Zaoralova was roundly praised for the generally solid level of the competition — “especially in a year when Cannes had a hard time getting good films,” as one industry insider remarked. But the biggest success of the fest came in the form of a surprise Norwegian comedy, “Buddy.” Director Morten Tyldum received the audience award; although the jury overlooked it and many fest programmers dismissed it as “not a festival film,” distributors from China to the U.S. were eager to get a look at the film based on buzz generated during the fest.

A handful of films scooped up multiple awards while finding favor with Karlovy Vary’s enthusiastic young audiences. The special jury prize (a runner-up award) went to Russian director Lidiya Bobrova’s “Babusya,” a tearjerker about a selfless grandmother. It also earned the FICC’s Don Quixote Prize and the ecumenical jury award. The widely praised French entry “Stupeur et tremblements” (Fear and Trembling) garnered a shared best actress award for Sylvie Testud and a special mention for the screenplay by Alain Corneau — both guests at the festival. Korean director Kim Ki-duk won the film critics’ Fipresci prize, the Prize of the Town of Karlovy Vary, and the Netpac Jury prize for Asian films for “Haeansun” (The Coast Guard). Actor nod went to Bjorn Kjellman in the Danish Dogma film “Se til venstre, der er en svensker” (“Old, New, Borrowed and Blue”), and Hungarian Jewish Holocaust drama “A Rozsa enekei” (Rose’s Songs) received a special jury mention.

Karlovy Vary still stands as the gateway festival between Eastern and Western Europe, but fest’s orientation is inching toward the West. Austria, France, Norway and Iceland were all strongly represented this year, with Austria’s Ulrich Seidl winning the long documentary jury prize for “Jesus, Du weisst” (Jesus, You Know).

A jury selecting from the section devoted to films from Eastern Europe found only two standouts, splitting their award between the Russian film “Koktebel,” directed by Boris Chlebnikov and Alexej Popogrebski, and Poland’s 2002 Oscar entry “Edi,” directed by Piotr Trzaskalski.

Although more than 3,500 accredited guests, industry professionals and journalists showed up, fest had a low-key year. In part, that was due to what one guest called the stratification of the event, with less intermingling of sponsors and guests, filmmakers and journalists.

The expansion of a year-old film industry office is a welcome sign, but the fest still has a long way to go in attracting and servicing film business. “The lack of industry presence should give the festival serious pause,” said one observer.

Nevertheless, there was an increasing number of local industry meetings, panels and industry receptions, almost despite the festival. Pan-European meetings are also on the rise. The European Film Academy once again met in Prague to begin deliberations on next year’s awards.

Business on the ground was sparse. Christophe Loizillon’s “My Camera and Me,” overlooked in France, was picked up by Cinemart for the Czech Republic. There was interest from Asian territories in “Buddy,” “Fear and Trembling,” Wayne Kramer’s “The Cooler” and the new David Ondricek film “One Hand Clapping” (an unfinished version screened privately for fest programmers and buyers).

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