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Karlovy Vary Film Festival Honors Stars and Filmmakers

Charlie Kaufman, Willem Dafoe and Jirina Bohdalova are among the award recipients

This year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival honorees include Academy Award-winning filmmaker Charlie Kaufman, Hollywood star Willem Dafoe and Czech actress Jirina Bohdalova.

Jirina Bohdalová
The President’s Award

Actress Jirina Bohdalová will receive the President’s Award at the upcoming 51st Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival. A force in Czech entertainment for nearly 80 years and one of its most beloved figures, the still-active Bohdalová’s career spans stage, film, and television performances. Cementing her reputation as a national treasure, she also hosted (with Vladimír Dvorák) the massively successful, long-running, live TV sketch show “Televarieté,” dubbed foreign films and provided expressive voice work on numerous Czech animated TV series, particularly the fairy tales created for “Evening Story.” [“Vecernícek”]. Writer-director Slávek Horák [“Home Care”] recalls, “Whole generations [including mine] grew up listening to her every evening at 7, universally accepted by kids and parents as the bedtime call.”

So ubiquitous a figure is “Bohdalka” [as her fans affectionately refer to her] that it is nearly impossible to conceive of Czech popular culture without her.

Born in 1931 to a working-class family in Prague, Bohdalová was a precocious extrovert from a young age. Her mother, an amateur actress, enrolled her in ballet school and let her serve as a film extra. Her first cinema appearance came in the 1937 silent “Pižla a Žižla na cestách.” After graduating from Prague’s prestigious theater academy, Damu, Bohdalová capitalized on her energy and self-confidence to make a name in comic roles, although she would ultimately define herself as a tragi-comic actress. She is a true natural who knows how to work her gift and demonstrates the rare ability to bond with viewers without trying too hard. Known for her sparkle and spunk, she played characters who could dish it out as well as take it. She is famous for her incredible comic timing, facial expressions [see what she can do with the merest flutter of her eyelashes or the cock of an eyebrow] and remarkable vocal range.

In the cinema, Bohdalová worked mostly with mainstream directors, including Jirí Sequens, Martin Fric and Hynek Bocan. Comedies and musicals such as “The Cassandra Cat” (1963), “Lady on the Tracks” (1966), “Men About Town” (1969), and “Four Murders Are Enough Darling” (1971) provided her most popular roles. Nevertheless, one of her most famous turns came in the iconic Czechoslovak New Wave drama “The Ear” (1970, banned until 1990) from helmer Karel Kachyna. She excels as the sharp-tongued, boozy wife of a paranoid government minister played by Radoslav Brzobohatý (the man who soon become her second husband).

Karlovy Vary will screen a restored print of “The Ear” in conjunction with the presentation of her prize. Other notable titles in which she inimitably combines comic and dramatic aspects include “A Star Named Wormwood” (1964), “Burglar and Umbrella” (1970), “Laughter Sticks to Your Heels” (1986), “Corpus Delicti” (1991) and “One Cat After the Other” (1993). She won Czech Lion awards for her starring role in the fairy tale “The Immortal Woman” (1993) and in the drama “Fany” (1995).

Bohdalová launched her stage career with legendary director Jan Werich at Prague’s ABC Theater. She later joined the ensemble at the Vinohrady Theater where she remained until 2004. Her signature roles include Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” and Erži Orbánová in István Örkény’s “Catsplay.” In 2010, she received a Thalia Award for her lifelong contribution to dramatic theater.

“Jirina Bohdalová is not just a human being — she is an angel,” Milos Forman says. “With 99.9% of people you eventually run into some conflict — with Jirina, never. She’s an original … we all love her.”

Willem Dafoe
The Crystal Globe

KVIFF will honor Willem Dafoe with the festival’s highest award, the Crystal Globe, for outstanding contribution to world cinema. Dafoe is the latest in a list of top Hollywood and international stars to be recognized. Previous honorees include Richard Gere, Mel Gibson and John Travolta.

Dafoe, who will receive the award on opening night, will be in Karlovy Vary with his wife, Italian actress-writer-director Giada Colagrande. During the fest, he will present the Abel Ferrara-helmed “Pasolini” (2014), in which he portrays the late Italian writer-director Pier Paolo Pasolini, and the Martin Scorsese-helmed “The Last Temptation of Christ,” in which he plays Jesus. Dafoe will also participate in a master class open to all festival attendees.

Since 1980, Dafoe has performed in more than 80 feature films, alternating roles in Hollywood blockbusters with American independent and international productions. He maintains ongoing relationships with some of the world’s most idiosyncratic auteurs, including Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel” ), Lars von Trier (“Antichrist”), Paul Schrader (“Dog Eat Dog”), and Ferrara.

Rounding out the list of iconic helmers with whom Dafoe has worked are Oliver Stone, David Cronenberg, Werner Herzog, David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Theo Angelopoulos and Kathryn Bigelow. He received Academy Award nominations for Stone’s “Platoon” (1986) and “Shadow of the Vampire” (2000), directed by E. Elias Merhige.

Known for his distinctive raspy voice and high, chiseled cheekbones, Dafoe represents many casting directors’ dream villain, and has played his share of characters who come to a bad end. But for many years he put his Hollywood paycheck toward supporting the Wooster Group, the New York experimental theater collective of which he was a founding member; he performed with the group from 1977 through 2005.
Now that’s a true good guy.

Charlie Kaufman
The President’s Award

KVIFF will honor Academy Award-winning filmmaker Charlie Kaufman with the President’s Award, given to artists who have contributed in a fundamental way to the development of contemporary world cinema. Fresh off the success of “Anomalisa,” his screenplay for “Chaos Walking,” based on the young adult trilogy by Patrick Ness, has attracted the attention of Doug Liman, who is in negotiations to direct.

Kaufman made his directorial debut with 2008’s “Synecdoche, New York” and last year produced, wrote, and co-directed (with Duke Johnson) “Anomalisa,” which was nominated for an Oscar for animated film. The fest will screen “Anomalisa” and Kaufman will accept the award.

Kaufman got his start writing for such cult shows as Chris Elliott’s “Get a Life” and sketch program “The Dana Carvey Show.” He soon made a name for himself with quirky, offbeat scripts such as his feature writing debut, “Being John Malkovich,” and followed it up with “Adaptation,” both directed by Spike Jonze. He got an original screenplay Oscar for Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

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