Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Having left Bulgaria, it was now time to do some proper European travelling. Some proper backpacking, and sightseeing! So, I went to Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic and spent 5 days at the international film festival.

Aside from this festival, Karlovy Vary is actually a cute little holiday town, known for its spas and bathhouses which once housed Goethe and Mozart, amongst many others[fun fact: Mozart’s son died here]. What this means, is that there isn’t actually much to do there, apart from walk around, and see how pretty it is.

So, I spent those 5 days watching 23 films, and if that number seems wild to you, I should also mention I only saw one of those films on the first day.

It was just so cheap. You buy a festival pass, which entitles you to buy 3 tickets a day, but buying tickets is incredibly tricky, because films sell out very quickly, however there’s no knowing if the screening is fully sold out. For every screening there is a second line for people with passes but no tickets. People start joining these lines up to 2 hours before a screening, because 5 minutes before the film starts, if ticket holders haven’t found their seats, this mass of ticketless scum are able to bum rush the cinema and scavenge any free seats available. It was actually fairly civilised and I saw a lot of films like this. At certain smaller cinemas, there were no seats available, however the floor was, and for ticketless scum, the floor is more than we deserved.

The accommodation side of the festival was also ludicrously cheap. I slept in a school which was converted into a hostel for the festival. I had my trusty sleeping bag with me, however I could’ve used a mattress on that solid wooden floor.

Some quick stats on the films I saw:

Films I fell asleep during: 5, mostly because of lack of coffee/sleep and them being late night screenings

Films I walked out of: 1, because what I thought was a screening of short films turned out to be a quadruple length episode of an animated children’s show for ages 2-5, with its main point of difference being that one of the main characters was blind. I watched 40 minutes of this before walking out. And I was surprised that the full audience of adults stuck around for the rest of it.

Films I actively hated: 1, The Dead Don’t Die by Jim Jarmusch. I have a love/hate relationship with Jim, but this film was an actual pile of poop. Imagine watching all these actors you like be almost funny in a not very funny script which is super slow, lazily written and does nothing new or interesting. I know that some people call this Jarmusch’s style, but I’ve seen far better films by him. It at least looks like everyone had a lot of fun making it.

Overall I quite liked a lot of the films I saw, I don’t need to give you full reviews of all of them, but in particular the 3 older Czech films I saw were really good. They were all comedies, with two of them made in the early 90s, in direct reaction to the aftermath of the velvet revolution (Smoke and It’s better to be Healthy and Wealthy than poor and ill) and the 3rd was from the 60s, in direct reaction to communism (Barnabas Kos Case). All of them were fascinating documents from turbulent times and also still funny and entertaining films.

Other highlights were two films as part of a retrospective of Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, whose work I’d never heard of but now I’m very interested in, and the Future Frames short film sections, which were each from different countries in the EU and were all really well made.

Basically, I saw a lot of films, and my brain nearly broke. I’ve got notes on all of them somewhere, but I needn’t bore you with them.

I’m now in Prague for a few days, enjoying being in a city which is so full of things to see and do. There’s bit of travel coming up, and considerably less film screenings.

Thanks for reading and all the very best,

Tim Carlier

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