Karlovy Vary tells ‘Story’

'Leon' nabs helmer trophy, shares actress nod with 'Aftermath'

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — Capping its successful 39th edition, the Karlovy Vary Film Festival awarded its top prize to Italo social drama “A Children’s Story,” directed by twins Andrea and Antonio Frazzi.

Fest was generally applauded for a strong competition selection, underscored by the wide range of prizes awarded.

Only two films picked up more than one award: Spanish entry “Leon and Olvido” garnered the director trophy for Xavier Sanchez Bermudez and a shared actress nod for Marta Larralde. Karen-Lise Mynster of “Aftermath” was the other actress winner, while the pic, a confident debut by Danish actress-turned-director Paprika Steen, earned a special mention from the FICC (Intl. Federation of Film Societies).

The jury appeared hard-pressed to choose its winners: Even French film “Chorists,” a surprising B.O. hit at home (approaching $50 million) that’s sold in nearly every territory and already is being touted for the foreign-language Oscar, failed to pick up a single prize.

Keen auds

Accepting the audience award for noncompetition entry “The Story of the Weeping Camel,” distributor Neil A. Friedman of Menemsha Films commented on the enthusiastic student auds who give Karlovy Vary its unique vitality.

Slovenian would-be entry “Beneath Her Window,” withdrawn from competition shortly before the festival in a misunderstanding of FIAPF rules governing the fest’s A category status, drew strong word of mouth.

Karlovy Vary veteran Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s “Niceland” and “After the Day Before” by Attila Janisch, a multiple winner at the Hungarian national film fest, went home empty-handed, as did the Czech home-team hopeful “Champions.”

That left a special mention for Zrinko Ogresta’s Croatia/Bosnia-Herzegovina co-production “Here” and an actor prize for Max Riemelt as a troubled student in the Nazi drama “Napola.”

Other winners

Russian helmer Pavel Medvedev’s study of deaf people, “Wedding of Silence,” was the documentary winner. The Fipresci jury of film critics honored the Russian film “My Step-Brother Frankenstein” by Valery Todorovsky. Iranian film “The Riverside” won the FICC’s Don Quixote Prize, and U.S. entry “Cavedweller,” by Lisa Cholodenko, took the Ecumenical Jury Prize.

This year introduced the first competition in the Forum of Independents section, with its Independent Camera prize sponsored by pubcaster Czech Television. U.S. helmer Mark Milgard won from a field of 16 films for his doomed-teen-romance story “Dandelion.” The Philip Morris Film Award of $10,000 for a film from an East European country was won by noncompetition Croatian film “The Witnesses,” directed by Vinko Bresan.

But the intense competition for films among top fests left auds waiting in vain for a must-see breakout hit.

Moore news

The biggest buzz went to celebrities. Although he wasn’t present, Michael Moore figured into everyone’s conversation, and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” in its post-Cannes re-edited form, was the week’s hottest ticket. Czech President Vaclav Klaus bashed the film and Moore as he left the second screening, while the band outside the cinema struck up Kerry-Edwards campaign tune “Johnny B. Goode.”

Closing-night guest Roman Polanski, who begins filming “Oliver Twist” in Prague today, was one of three recipients of the award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema. Harvey Keitel and Czech cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek received their awards on opening night. The prize of the town of Karlovy Vary was presented to Jacqueline Bisset.

Other international thesps in attendance were John Cleese, introducing closing-night film “Shrek 2,” Elijah Wood, Ben Gazzara, Seymour Cassel, Colm Meaney, Bernard Hill, Fele Martinez, Javier Camara and Paul Walker.

While it appeared little was accomplished in the way of film sales, industry presence was judged to have increased by about half. Distributors and fest programmers enjoyed the fest’s relaxed business atmosphere. Those opportunities were encouraged by this year’s wider range of related panels, workshops and industry events.

Among special film sections, the “10 Best Turkish Films” program looks destined for a life beyond the fest, where it played to sellout crowds. Ditto the Maysles brothers retrospective, with insightful commentary by Albert, and the John Cassavetes tribute accompanied by a panel discussion of the director’s unique style.

If president Jiri Bartoska and artistic director Eva Zaoralova needed proof of the success of the 39th edition, other than the 125,000-plus spectators who packed like sardines into screening rooms, they received it with special awards from the Karlovy Vary Region, for Bartoska, and from the Ecumenical Jury, for Zaoralova.

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