Art Film Festival: Programmers Court Larger Audience With New Setting

Shift from spa town to Slovakian city venue brings world cinema to young film fans

Sieranevada Movie
Courtesy of Wild Bunch

Slovakia’s Art Film Fest, with a 23-year history as a flagship of the post-Velvet Revolution cultural world, is in an expansive mood these days. It’s settling comfortably into the quickly transforming city of Kosice, a former industrial center near the fragrant Tokaj vineyards that border Hungary, where it will unspool June 17-25.

Operating since 1993, the year of Slovakia’s split from Czechoslovakia, the fest built its rep for rebellious programming in its previous home, Trencianske Teplice, a more placid setting in the mountainous western end of the White Carpathains range. But the festival has packed up for the southeast, banking on a number of newly kitted-out screening spaces and a crowd of thousands of university students who will ensure Art Film maintains its youthful spirit.

As the event’s new general manger Rudolf Biermann puts it, the “wonderful venues” of Kosice, which have concentrated the attractions into a hub of converted factory spaces, multi-use bars, cinemas and art venues, fit perfectly into its new focus. “A festival should be fun, accessible and people should have freedom of movement.”

The fest’s founding role was to keep Slovak film alive during the challenging years of the transition to liberal democracy when Slovakia witnessed the closure of Koliba Film Studios, which had formed the heart of production.

Now, after expanding more than 25-fold in attendance, having hosted everyone from Peter Greenaway for its first edition to Roman Polanski, Isabelle Huppert and Emir Kusturica in later years, Art Film is focused on honoring exceptional performances via its Actor’s Mission award and outstanding professionalism for filmmakers of any age with its Golden Camera honor.

Meanwhile, Art Film programmers have scheduled a survey of global indie cinema. Among its new additions, the Be2Can Starter section will screen picks from the Berlin, Venice and Cannes fests while the Variety Art Film Choice is programmed by critics with a background in European cinema.