Talk with Karlovy’s program director Julietta Zacharova

Thread among fest's lineup is home and hearth

The search for Crystal Globe noms at the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival is a yearlong global quest conducted by a demanding film pro: program director Julietta Zacharova.

As she muses over the 42nd fest’s lineup, a dominant thread emerges: the filmmakers’ preoccupation with home and hearth. The subject is common to many of the contenders, which feature intimate family or personal dramas, Zacharova observes.

Still, other pics defy easy grouping, ranging from what she calls “metaphorical films” to immigrant stories and psychological thrillers, such as Iceland’s “Jar City.”

Strong performances are central to some, like France’s “Conversations With My Gardener,” Poland’s “Savior’s Square,” Germany’s “Karger,” Italy’s “Saturno contro” and the Czech Republic’s own “Empties.” Others transport auds with atmosphere, such as “Jar City” and Hungary’s “Dolina,” while Australia’s “Lucky Miles” and South Korea’s “Pruning the Grapevine” offer “beautiful” camera work, according to Zacharova.

The comic slant, meanwhile, was a decisive factor in Norway’s “The Art of Negative Thinking,” about a therapy rebellion; Russia’s “Simple Things,” about a doctor forced to do TV spots; and “Empties,” a Czech tale of a retired teacher’s search for something to keep him out of the house.

When seeking out pics, Zacharova says that “the films should, of course, somehow represent the countries they are coming from and also capture the spirit of the time.”

Bringing in fare from unexpected places is a point of pride, she says: Fest is “very open to new names and of course also new filmmaking nations.”

Vital is “the excitement of making a new discovery, of giving a chance to a new style and new approach to the cinema that we find challenging.”

Another source of up-and-coming talents, she says, is the Sundance fest, with which Karlovy Vary has collaborated since Robert Redford’s appearance at the 40th KV fest.

Variety Editor-in-Chief Peter Bart, who is also presiding over the KV jury, and his “Sunday Morning Shootout” co-host Peter Guber will broadcast the AMC series from the fest this year.

The fest’s offerings from the East are rich: KV generally shines in highlighting the work from Russia and Eastern Europe in its East of the West competition.

Such films after 1989 tended to focus on dealing with newfound freedom, taking on once-forbidden topics, Zacharova says, or going for coin with “highly commercial films.”

All that’s changed: The 2007 Cannes winner from Romania, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” shows “that going back to the past, to the years of communism, is still a challenge and there are still untold stories that — of course thanks to the filmmakers’ enormous talent — will take your breath away and make you want to make this cinematic trip back to gloomy years that are long gone.”

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