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Karel Och • Artistic director, Karlovy Vary IFF

“I wish arthouse films were produced faster”

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- Karlovy Vary’s artistic director, Karel Och, talks to Cineuropa about the 52nd edition of the festival as well as domestic and regional cinema

Karel Och • Artistic director, Karlovy Vary IFF
(© Jana Vondruskova)

The 52nd edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (30 June-8 July) marks the seventh year for Karel Och as the gathering’s artistic director. Following the unveiling of the event’s rich competition sections (see the news) and the rest of its line-up (see the news), Och discusses the state of domestic and regional production with Cineuropa.

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Cineuropa: What do you think the global image of Central and Eastern European cinema is, based on your scouting and combing through the many films for KVIFF’s various sections?
Karel Och:
 It is attracting the attention of more and more festival programmers, and not only from our part of Europe. You can see Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, to name but a few, represented very well and involved in major film events on a regular basis. Young, exciting auteurs from the territory are getting some well-deserved recognition. 

Last year, a couple of awards at the Locarno Film Festival went to Central and Eastern European filmmakers. Does this imply a new direction for Central and Eastern European cinema?
The more highly respected events outside of Central and Eastern Europe will present films coming from our territory, which is all the better for film production in “our” countries. Look at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Also, San Sebastián has been presenting exciting examples of young cinema from the post-socialist world for a few years now. 

Czech and Slovakian films are represented in each competition. Does this mean that domestic production is on the up?
The trend is positive but slow. I wish arthouse films were produced faster, even with lower budgets. We have extraordinary producers who are quite active on the European level. We can’t complain about a lack of talented writer-directors, but they simply take too long.

There’s an interesting combination in the main competition: Peter Bebjak, known for his genre television and film projects, is pitted against primarily arthouse filmmaker Václav Kadrnka. What does this reveal about domestic production for outsiders?
Ultimately, it reveals that our taste is quite peculiar. We’re looking for filmmakers with a strong and uncompromising vision, be they genre blenders, like Peter Bebjak, or makers of contemplative medieval road movies, like Václav Kadrnka. And let’s not forget Andy Fehu and his very first Czech internet thriller, Growroom, being presented as a special event.

What will the 52nd edition of the KVIFF offer in terms of debuting and emerging filmmakers?
A very rich and diverse selection. Half of the main competition comprises first films, which are fairly mature and complex works. Naturally, there are plenty in the East of the West competition, which is designed to launch talents from our territory – like Tomasz Wasilewski and Rusudan Glurjidze, to name a couple of examples from the recent past. 

The KVIFF leaves room for webseries, Office Blaník and the aforementioned Growroom. What is the festival’s standpoint on episodic narratives, and will they have more room dedicated to them at upcoming editions, given that many series are very cinematic?
Burning BushTrue Detective and Wasteland are a few examples of the series we have successfully presented on the big screen in recent years. We had a chance to watch the webseries Growroom in one go, and it does have the makings of a regular, exciting film. If this is the way talented Czech filmmakers emerge in the near future, we will be here to help – but not without careful curation.

Virtual reality is evolving, and more international film festivals are getting involved in it (the VR Days at Rotterdam, for instance), including in Eastern Europe (InfiniTIFF at the Transilvania International Film Festival). How is the KVIFF planning to reflect the emergence of this new medium?
It is a bit like what we’ve done with the work made for television. We’ve shown television series or TV movies over the last seven years, but only when we felt they had big-screen potential, which is why we never wanted to create a special section focused on TV productions, as that would entail, in a weaker year, the necessity to fill it up with productions we do not find convincing. When we feel it makes sense for Karlovy Vary, we will give it more thought, but we have not had that feeling so far when it comes to VR and our selection.

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