Fest rewards ‘Faithless’

Oscar-nommed 'Zelary' leaves empty handed

PILSEN, Czech Republic — “Faithless Games,” largely overlooked internationally and ignored locally, took the top award at the 17th Finale festival of Czech films.

A debut feature by multi-prized animation director Michaela Pavlatova, the film is a subtle depiction of marital infidelity.

Fest, which wrapped on April 4, gave its runner-up Kodak award to “Bored in Brno,” a debut black-and-white comedy by leading theatrical director Vladimir Moravek. “Bored in Brno” also walked away with the sutdent jury award and the Pilsner Brewery Prize.

Results of the closing ceremony pointed to the rich variety of films coming out of the Czech Republic despite shrinking film funding. The jury of film clubs gave its Don Quixote prize to a black-and-white chamber film “Sentiment,” debut helmer Thomas Hejtmanek’s fictionalized interview with then-newly deceased maestro helmer Frantisek Vlacil, featuring a mesmerizing performance by Jiri Kodet as Vlacil.

A second prize went to yet another debut film, “Champions” by Marek Najbrt, a black comedy about a run-down village swept up in the Czech win of the world ice hockey championship. The film had its world premiere on the opening night of the festival, with the win expected to boost local box office in its opening weeks.

The festival closed with a screening of “The Bridge,” a Czech American co-production directed by Bobby Garabedian which was Oscar-nominated for best short film, and a reminder that this year’s Oscars featured two nominations for Czech films. The other, best foreign film nominee “Zelary,” directed by Ondrej Trojan, left the festival empty-handed, save for a Cinema magazine actress award for star Ana Geislerova which was announced at the opening of the festival.

Since upgrading the festival with an international jury last year, fest director Ivan Jachym has made impressive inroads in attracting foreign fest directors and press. Hamburg fest director Albert Wiederspiel, attending for the first time, said, “They have all the right people here.”

This year’s event included panels on distribution, criticism, film festivals, and a seminar on Central European film accompanied by two additional days of screenings. The Czech Film Center once again organized a presentatiion of Czech films in production to a packed hall of fest programmers, producers, distributors and media.

Organizers from other European events are putting the spotlight on Czech films in the year ahead. Roland Rust, director of the Cottbus festival announced that the November 2-6 festival will feature a New Czech Cinema focus. Philip Bergson, director of the Bradford expo Eurovisions, invited Czech fest directors to present a panel during the March 2004 Czech-themed event. Meanwhile, Czech producers are pinning their hopes on a bill to be introduced in parliament withing the month requesting a 3% tax on box office, video sales and rentals, and TV advertising to go into the national film fund, which now stands at some $2 million.

Several new Czech films have announced premieres in the near future. They include Juraj Jakubisko’s “Post Coitum” starring Franco Nero, a contemporary film by Oscar-nominated Jan Hrebejk and “Choking Hazard,” a zombie spoof by Marek Dobes headed for the Tribeca film festival. Only “Choking Hazard,” finished on April 1, had a sneak preview during the Finale.

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