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When the curtain rises June 28 on the 54th edition of the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival, there will be a conspicuous absence among the 12 titles selected for the main competition: Czech directors.
It’s just the second time this decade that the host country has failed to field a single entry in competition, a choice that festival artistic director Karel Och says he didn’t take lightly.
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“It is not an easy decision,” he says. “But we believe we are helping the local film industry more by fostering a discussion about what is [currently] the missing ingredient of Czech cinema, than by bringing in a film that would have a tough time to compete.”
For a country with deserved pride in a cinematic tradition that includes such titans of the silver screen as Academy Award winners Milos Forman and Jiri Menzel and Czech New Wave co-founder Jan Nemec, the shutout stings. Throughout its long history, and especially since its post-Soviet rebirth, the Karlovy Vary film festival has been an ardent supporter of the local industry.
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Yet despite a down year, Och believes Czech cinema is as vibrant as ever. “A new generation is becoming more and more visible, but of course that takes time,” he says.
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Both Czech directors from last year’s Karlovy Vary competition are young auteurs on the cusp of promising careers, he notes; several anticipated Czech films are also in development. “It seems next year will be quite strong,” he says.
Slovak director Marko Skop’s gripping nationalist drama “Let There Be Light,” a Czech-Slovak co-production, will screen in this year’s competition.
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Now in his ninth year as artistic director of a festival that has long championed cinema from an often-overlooked part of Europe, Och finds himself at the creative helm as filmmakers from...
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