The Karlovy Vary Film Festival, the Czech Republic’s premiere industry event, announced Wednesday it will launch in abridged form Nov. 18 in the spa town where it had to be canceled in July due to COVID-19 restrictions.
With a non-competitive program and screening top titles from other major fests, Karlovy Vary will run for four days with physical screenings at four cinemas in the historic west Bohemian resort hamlet where it has been based since the post-WWII era.
By running its first fractional event, organizers say, Karlovy Vary IFF 54 ½ will offer audiences the Czech premieres of “an exclusive selection of the most distinctive films to have aroused positive responses at their premieres at Sundance, Berlin or Venice, or that bear the Cannes Label.”
The fest announced it will screen a digitally restored print of the 1966 Czech classic “Kocar do Vidne” (Carriage to Vienna) by Karel Kachyna, said fest artistic director Karel Och. The war story, which was nominated for best film at Karlovy Vary that year, stars Iva Janzurova and Jaromir Hanzlik, and follows a young Austrian soldier running from the Soviet army while dragging along a Czech widow in order to save his wounded comrade.
Celebrated for its freewheeling camera style, the film hinted at the future promise of Kachyna’s “Ucho” (The Ear), a noir-ish 1970 study in paranoia that centers on a party official and his wife whose home is infested with police state surveillance microphones.
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Some 30 films will each screen two or three times, with projections in the Grand and Small Hall of the iconic Hotel Thermal, the traditional mothership of the Karlovy Vary fest known for its distinctive Brutalist architecture. Other screenings will draw crowds to the ornate Karlovy Vary Theatre and the nearby Cas Cinema.
The full program will be announced online at kviff.com on Oct. 19, where guests can book discount-price tickets starting Oct. 21.
With COVID-19 cases currently on the rise in the Czech Republic, and new restrictions in place, safety rules currently limit gatherings to 10 people but allow for up to 500 in cinema halls with social distancing, masks and contact tracing in use.
The unique mid-year event follows the online version of the Eastern Promises industry platform in July, which brought together international film professionals with more than 40 film works in progress from Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Allowing for COVID-19 impacts on international travel, Karlovy Vary IFF 54 ½ will have fewer guests from abroad but “will instead focus more locally on the challenging situation faced by theaters and exhibitors in the Czech Republic.”
Building on the fest’s popular summer showcase held in Prague and around the Czech Republic, KVIFF at Your Cinema, which screened titles in almost 100 cinemas, organizers say, “we will be looking at possible ways of connecting festivals, exhibitors and new distribution models in times of fundamental changes to the traditional film industry.”