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Karel Och • Artistic Director, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

“Establishing contact with viewers is not about pleasing them at all costs, but rather connecting with their perception”

– The big boss of the largest Czech film gathering talks about the evolution of the festival, new initiatives, national cinema and the reception of Ukrainian films

(© Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary)

Like the 56e The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (July 1-9) is fast approaching (read the news), we met its artistic director to discuss the upcoming edition. Karel Osh talked about the development of the festival, new initiatives and Czech cinema, among other topics.

Cineuropa: Karlovy Vary suffered several changes during the latest editions. What has been the driving force behind them, other than the pandemic?
Karel Osh
: We had started considering many of the structural changes even before the pandemic. One was the removal of the documentary competition, and also, the new face of the former East of the West competition, Proxima, is a significant change that we had been preparing for several years. We consulted directors and producers in the region on this change, since many of the voices calling for this change came from our industry. We realized that our mission to help filmmakers from the former Eastern bloc reach the international stage was accomplished, and now producers want to compete on a global level.

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During the presentation of the official selection, you noted that this champions “new means of cinematographic expression which do not, however, oppose the receptivity of the public Where inclinations”. Is this the festival’s current programming policy, favoring new cinema accessible to the public?
I believe this is the next chapter in the work of festival programmers who closely follow current trends and want to offer audiences, including us, films that will provoke them. I generally use the metaphor of a gallery, where realistic paintings are exhibited as well as more abstract works. The paintings invite visitors to live a perhaps complicated experience, but without losing sight of them. And connecting with viewers does not mean pleasing them at all costs, but rather connecting with their perception, even if the stimuli are radical in nature.

Besides the sections with films where genre meets arthouse, you also have a dedicated section called Imagine, who hosts experimental and avant-garde offers.
Previously, we used to show similar films in different sections. But I believe that every programmer wants to have a clearly readable program structure. Each section had a clear definition of the type of viewer that could be expected – for example, new visitors. Imagina is now well established after being around for several years, and we have three world premieres from important filmmakers that will beckon viewers for an alternative projection experience.

Czech cinema is well represented in the program once again. However, some new movies we could have been expecting to see in the line-up didn’t make the cut.
We have quite a few national films this year, but many of them did not make it into the final lineup. We had to be more selective. We wanted our programming of Czech films to be selective and to contain films that we could offer not only to Czech audiences, but also to those from Australia or Asia. Not all Czech films were internationally understandable. We are very satisfied with the selection of national titles. Most of them have this European arthouse production sensibility, and we are confident that some of them will have successful international careers.

International film festivals extend thego programming scope beyond film production, including episodic storytelling, XR works, and video games. Is it a direction this KVIFF strength reflect ?
This is a topic that is being discussed as part of the new KVIFF Talents initiative. The selection process for KVIFF Talents is currently underway, and I know that video games are also part of the submissions. That said, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival supports this type of work from the earliest stages. It will probably be several years before we can discuss programming content of this type within the framework of our festival.

Speaking of KVIFF Talents, can you elaborate on the mission of this initiative?
KVIFF Talents was born from our long-standing desire to support national production and new talents, to offer alternative financing methods accompanied by coaching, and to expand audiovisual production in new contexts. Additionally, it focuses on learning how to use cinematic language on a limited budget. We would like to use this initiative to support young Czech talents so that they can work on more projects that could be cheaper and thus revitalize low-budget cinema in the country. And that’s something we’re particularly interested in, because such an approach is fast, fresh and responsive to changing trends.

We have started talk about How? ‘Or’ What the pandemic has influenced the festival, but there is another event that has too had an impact. The The KVIFF exceptionally hosts the The Odessa International Film Festival is underway selections because of the war about Ukraine [see the news]. What is your position on the boycotting Russian filmmakers?
In addition to the space we have gladly created for the presentation of the works in progress you mentioned, we offer a fairly representative selection of contemporary Ukrainian cinema, which also enjoys well-deserved exposure due to its cinematic qualities. We have four outstanding films by Ukrainian filmmakers on the program: Klondike [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Maryna Er Gorbach
film profile
]
, Butterfly Vision [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Maksym Nakonechnyi
film profile
]
, Pamfir [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk
film profile
]
and Reflection [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Valentyn Vasyanovych
film profile
]
as well as the much discussed and alarming Mariupolis 2 [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
.

We are all trying to react to this situation and remain sensitive to the requests of Ukrainian filmmakers, who are our friends and partners. We fully understand the reasons why they called for a general boycott. One way to bring about change is for it to come from within Russian society, and this can be reinforced by isolation, not just by reducing cinema. On the other hand, we have several partners who are Russian filmmakers who actively stand up to their country’s so-called elites and who don’t want to be confused with citizens who support Putin. And we can’t close our eyes either.

That’s why we don’t boycott Russian films in Karlovy Vary. We don’t have any Russian films in the official selection, but that’s not because the festival is boycotting them. In the sidebar line-up you can find the movie Captain Volkonogov escaped [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, whom we invited last fall after seeing it at the Venice Film Festival. We didn’t think there was a reason to rescind the invitation, as the film’s story strongly echoes the current situation and can contribute to an eye-opening discussion.

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