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"It's exciting how a film festival can help young filmmakers at the start of their career"

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Karel Och • Artistic director, KVIFF

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- Cineuropa sat down with Karel Och, the artistic director of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, to talk about the jubilee edition of the festival

Karel Och  • Artistic director, KVIFF

Karel Och was appointed as the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival’s artistic director in 2010, after nine years working as a programmer and a member of the selection committee at the festival, taking over the role from Eva Zaoralová, who boasted a tenure spanning 15 years. Cineuropa met up with Och to discuss the upcoming major edition of KVIFF as well as the shifts in domestic cinema, seeing as Czech films have been selected in every competition section.

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Cineuropa: One of this year’s most noticeable features is the focus on young talents. Was it intentional?
Karel Och: Generally speaking, I find it exciting to think about the potential of a film festival in helping young filmmakers at the start of their career, in creating a safe and attractive place for the first screening of their debut, as happened with Joachim Trier’s Reprise [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Joachim Trier
interview: Karin Julsrud
film profile
]
, which had its world premiere at Karlovy Vary, and in helping them to navigate through the jungle of the industry by setting up meetings, advising them and so on. To put it simply, one of the main tasks of a film festival is to help filmmakers; naturally, young artists need more help. As for this year’s young main competition, it was not intentional, but if a festival is known for supporting young filmmakers, then young filmmakers feel more comfortable coming to you and offering you their work.

What is the most significant thing about this new generation of filmmakers?
More films are being made due to the relatively low cost compared to a decade ago. It requires more time to consider them all properly, but the chance of finding a gem is higher. Judging from our main competition, this year’s debuts are more mature, but that might be influenced by the fact that the debutants in question are already established documentary filmmakers, for instance. So it is relative, and I’d rather avoid any generalisation.

Are there any obvious trends in the competition films?
The truth is that this year, we have seen several films in which the makers are trying to figure out how to deal with a serious illness, how to cope with the situation when a person close to them passed away or soon will. It is an issue we all need to think about sooner or later, and I am impressed by the complex and unsentimental way in which filmmakers address these issues. One prime example is Home Care [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Slávek Horák
film profile
]
, a Czech contender in the main competition.

Which titles would you consider to be the discoveries of the 50th edition?
That is something that our audience will ultimately decide upon. A few unusual titles by new filmmakers come to mind, though, such as AmerikaJourney to Rome [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
Chemo [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
The World Is Mine [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
Hopefuls and Game Over. And all the debuts in the main competition could be considered discoveries. I should not forget our new Future Frames programme, in collaboration with our long-time partner European Film Promotion. We are introducing ten incredibly talented European film students. Will they be discoveries? Hopefully.

Domestic production is quite heavily represented in every competition section. Is 2015 a turning point for Czech cinema?
My impression is that a new generation is coming up. We are showing three graduation films from Prague’s FAMU in the competition line-up. Young filmmakers tend to work together, are anxious to watch as many films as possible and travel to festivals on their own to learn more about the business. Call me an optimist, but something is happening.

What is the international appeal and potential of the competing Czech films? 
Captivating stories told in a straightforward, unsophisticated way. The filmmaking feels more natural, less staged. That concerns both main competition titles The Snake Brothers [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jan Prušinovský
film profile
]
 and Home Care.

What will the East of the West section tell us about the cinema of the former Soviet Bloc? 
If you pay close attention, you can find some very talented filmmakers in the former Soviet Bloc. But that kind of message is not new this year.

Have there been any new shifts in Central and Eastern European cinema recently?
I have not seen any, except that more producers from Central and Eastern Europe are now co-producing with the rest of the world; they are more visible and successful at bigger festivals.

You are also a member of the LUX Prize committee, the official selection of which will be unveiled on 5 July at the KVIFF. Was this year’s selection process any different compared to previous editions?
The LUX Prize committee is a very interesting group of people, which I am really happy to be a part of. This year was no different from the previous ones – each of us brought a few titles and tried to convince the others why he or she thought these were the films worth attention. The final ten constitute a superb selection.

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