While Covid cases begin to surge again in Hollywood, it’s a different story nearly 6,000 miles away as the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival kicked off with a bang on Friday night. The prominent Central European festival showed no sign that the pandemic was going to mar yet another edition of the much-loved event as delegates packed into the Hotel Thermal’s Grand Hall for its opening night ceremony and opening night film Superheroes, from Italian director Paolo Genovese.
The 56th edition of the event opened with an unexpected announcement, asking audience members to turn off their phones and start recording as a huge QR code saying “Scan Me” was unveiled on the screen. Delegates were able to watch festival dancers online on their mobile devices via the QR code before they descended onto the stage with an energetic and well-choreographed dance number featuring dramatic flames of fire exploding upwards at the front of the stage.
It was a fitting opening for the cherished boutique festival, very much echoing the sentiments felt earlier this year in Cannes that international film festivals are ready to rise from the ashes of the pandemic.
Festival president Jirí Bartoška opened the nine-day long event saying, “We are living in strange times, and by that, I mean the senseless and cruel war in Ukraine.”
He compared filmmakers to modern Hamlets trying to set right things in a world that seems so off-kilter. Bartoška made it very clear that this year’s Karlovy Vary festival would express “it’s full support of Ukrainian filmmakers,” and pointed to its Works-In-Progress platform for Ukraine’s Odesa Film Festival, which it’s hosting in the town for its Ukrainian friends.
He also went on to talk about the legacy of its legendary former artistic director Eva Zaoralová, who passed away in March at the age of 89, before playing a touching commemoriative video to the audience. The Czech journalist and film academic who led the reboot of KVIFF in 1994 will be celebrated at this year with an exhibition of photographs documenting her work.
A host of top names will touch down in the 13thCentury spa town across the next week, including Geoffrey Rush, Benicio Del Toro and Liev Schreiber. Rush will be the recipient of the lifetime achievement Crystal Globe while Del Toro will be lauded with the festival’s president award.
Schreiber, who has Ukrainian roots stemming from his maternal grandfather, will be in town tomorrow to discuss BlueCheck Ukraine, a network he co-founded that vets humanitarian aid organizations for Ukraine as well as acting as a financial conduit to transmit donations. He’ll also be doing a retrospective of his career in a panel on Sunday.
The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival runs July 1-9.
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