Karlovy Vary wrapped its 44th edition Saturday with Tehran filmmaker Abdolreza Kahani winning a special jury prize for “Twenty,” a look at life in a down-on-its-luck Iranian banquet hall.
Kahani asked audiences to recognize his people’s struggle, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd, including Vaclav Havel. John Malkovich, who was present as one-time dissident Havel was inaugurated as first post-Velvet Revolution president in 1990, cited the two nations’ parallel quest for freedom.
It was a fitting closing night for the fest, which brings the best work from Central and Eastern Europe to Western scouts and buyers.
Crystal Globe winner “Angel at Sea,” a Morocco-set Belgian/Canadian production by Frederic Dumont that examines the hell an unstable father can create for a boy, won the actor kudo for Olivier Gourmet. The prize was split with Paul Giamatti for fantasy “Cold Souls,” with Danish thesp Paprika Steen scoring the actress prize for her portrayal of a hard-drinking ex-star in “Applause.”
Director went to Andreas Dresen for “Whiskey With Vodka,” another tale of actors on the decline, while a special acting mention went to the youthful Filip Garbacz for Polish teen prostitution drama “Piggies.”
Final night gala, at the renovated main hall of the communist-era Hotel Thermal, the Karlovy Vary mothership, also paid tribute to Malkovich, who, along with Isabelle Huppert and Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, took home Crystal Globes for contribution to world cinema. This year’s fest had a record attendance of nearly 12,000, with most of the 367 screenings sold out a day in advance.
Guests such as Antonio Banderas commended the film program, as did scouts, and the fest was abuzz about discoveries such as the Russian Cold War musical “Hipsters” and compelling looks back at the old regime in this 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Docu winners “Osadni,” about a Slovak village delegation to the European Union, and “We Live in Public,” a American study of webcams run amok, both examine changing times, while short docu prizes went to “Wagah,” a German/Indian/Pakistani focus on border rituals, and “Till It Hurts,” a Polish look at family tensions.
Aud prize winner “A Matter of Size,” an offbeat Israeli pic about weight-consciousness and sumo wrestling, demonstrated the kind of diversity that draws fans from all over to Karlovy Vary.
Fest’s youthful crowds descended on this sleepy spa town as usual, keeping bass beats pounding all night at makeshift clubbing spaces and packing into midnight screenings such as Scott Sanders’ surprise hit “Black Dynamite,” which won over droves of Czechs who didn’t seem concerned never to have seen the blaxploitation flicks it parodies.