The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is not Cannes. And that's probably a good thing… Here's a last-minute tip for anyone who's in the Czech Republic in the next few days, loves movies and wants to see something really local and something really cool - the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. A festival now headed by the powerful and charismatic duo of Eva Zaoralova (who picks the movies for the festival) and Jiri Bartoska (a famous actor who does the fundraising, I guess), the Karlovy Vary Festival ("KVIFF") is one of the few Category-A film festivals (just like this in Cannes, Berlin or Venice) and the largest in Central and Eastern Europe. However, the festival quite differs from others of its kind.
While other major film festivals are staged events targeted mainly at the stars, mainstream and gossip media, and big movie producers, the Karlovy Vary festival is really for the people. Every year, Karlovy Vary, a beautiful spa town in the woods of Western Bohemia that is worth a visit by itself, is flooded by thousands of young backpacking movie lovers who create a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. You have to book well in advance to get reasonably priced accommodation for the festival; the organizers also set up a tent town for the younger crowd. However, many people just visit the festival for a day (Karlovy Vary is less than a two hours' drive away from Prague) to see a movie, see a concert and - if invited or lucky - crash a party thrown by the sponsors of the festival.
Reflecting this tradition, the festival is not one of your stuffy, snobby affairs, but a really nice, relaxing, even homey, event that does not take itself too seriously. The stars that visit the festival are either young-and-coming starlets (in the past, the festival was visited by the likes of Leonardo di Caprio, Scarlet Johansson, Keira Knightley and others way before they made it big in Hollywood), or veterans with some art-cinema appeal (Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, John Malovich, Kim Ki-duk, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Mia Farrow and many others). The easy and careless atmosphere of the festival is nicely shown by one of its traditions - festival teasers with stars shown as they mistreat the award they have received at Karlovy Vary (the first one shows Jude Law finding a nice way to put the trophy to good use; in the other spot, the festival's president, Mr Bartoska, does not find the mistreatment funny, saying "You gotta be *bleeping* kidding me"):
Anyway, if you're in the Czech Republic for an extended period of time and love movies, we think the Karlovy Vary film festival is definitely worth visiting. The festival starts tonight (29 June) and ends on 7 July. You can get to Karlovy Vary by bus (about two hours). We recommend the comfortable Student Agency buses with online reservations. For more information about the festival, the movie times and associated concerts and parties, visit the official website.