KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — The 49th edition of the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival kicked off Friday with a ceremony at which Mel Gibson was awarded the Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema.

Accepting the Crystal Globe statuette, which is an art deco figure of a naked woman holding a crystal globe, Gibson joked: “It’s just the kind of thing I want. The kind of fantasy I always had. A naked woman holding a ball. It’s great.”

“I’m jet-lagged,” he said. “It seems like only yesterday I was 15,000 kilometers away, and I think I was. Three o’clock in the morning and I had to get an emergency root canal (operation) on the way to the airplane, and I’m not kidding, because it’s hell going up in altitude with your nerves going nuts.”

Gibson, who had been given a warm welcome by the audience and the crowd on the red carpet, added: “But I wouldn’t have missed this for the world, and I am not only honored and astounded, I am charmed by Karlovy Vary and by the very warm reception I’ve received.”

“And I’m honored to be amongst some of the people who are here. My goodness, I mean it is full of artists and directors and diplomats and statesman and mayors… and hot-looking chicks. It’s fantastic, and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer reception and a nicer landing.”

He then went on to talk about being a storyteller.

“This is really the icing on the cake. You know, we get to do this for a living: we get to tell stories, and when I was little I would listen to stories with eyes like saucers, as my father told me, or as anyone told me. I would listen to anyone tell me a story. I was easy,” he said.

“Telling stories is the real gratification. When you see a child’s eyes light up, or when you see an audience respond. I saw people, the general public, out there tonight and at some point they were moved by something I did, and this is most gratifying, and it humbles me to think that what I have to offer, the meager thing, full of all the actor’s insecurity, all the artist’s insecurity, those things are actually received here and there, and in no small measure here.”

The evening had opened with a bravura performance staged by the Caban brothers, with their troupe dancing in the rain to the swing song “In the Mood.”

The opening film was science-themed mystery “I Origins,” which was presented by director Mike Cahill, who was joined onstage by lead actor Michael Pitt, thesp Astrid Berges-Frisbey and producer Alex Orlovsky.