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Karel Och • Artistic director, KVIFF

"We've been working to present as many remarkable films from Central and Eastern Europe as possible"


- Cineuropa met up with Karel Och, the artistic director of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, to talk about the upcoming edition of the festival

Karel Och  • Artistic director, KVIFF

Since 2001, Karel Och has worked for the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (see selection news) as a programmer and a member of the selection committee. In 2010, he was appointed as KVIFF's artistic director, taking over from Eva Zaoralová after her 15 years of service. Cineuropa sat down with Och to discuss the upcoming edition of KVIFF as well as the European cinema landscape.

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Cineuropa: Have there been any changes concerning the overall programming strategy?
Karel Och:
Not really. We’ve just been working harder on the strategy to present as many new and remarkable films from Central and Eastern Europe as possible. We added Greece and Turkey to the countries we focus on in the East of the West competition, and we now feel closer to the geographical definition (east of Prague) than to the political one (the former Eastern Bloc, post-Soviet countries).

Does the 49th edition of the festival have any leitmotif or main theme?
I am pleased to say that overall, there is more humour – black, dry, bitter humour. The authors of the films we present do not shy away from the troubles but somehow feel more of an urge to fight them with a dark and twisted, but still entertaining, spirit.

Are there any dominant themes in contemporary European cinema?
When you are watching hundreds of European films a year, you get to see a whole variety of genres, themes and motifs. I do not know about any of these prevailing so much that it would be worth mentioning. I know more about territories: I’m happy to say that Greece is still going strong, and Serbia has been as well for a few years now. We have been lucky enough to be able to show some great films from Hungary, and this edition is no different.

This year, two Czech titles, Fair Play [+see also:
film review
film profile
 by Andrea Sedláčková and Nowhere in Moravia [+see also:
film profile
 by Miroslav Krobot, made it into the main competition.
Basically, both Czech films in the main competition have the potential to compete with strong contenders from abroad. That is something I am reluctant to say about most of the domestic production, unfortunately.

Will we see more Czech films at the world’s festivals?
I hope so, but I still see a rather uncertain future. I would place my bets on young Czech and Slovak producers who understand that in order to become interesting for major festivals, they simply need to work with fellow foreign colleagues on co-productions.

How was it programming the East of the West sidebar?
We are very happy with the line-up, but it was not easy to get there. The concept of premiering first and second films from our territory is still at a rather early stage, and we have strong (but healthy and very friendly) competition at festivals of a similar size, such as San Sebastian and Locarno.

Are there any significant trends in the films of Central and Eastern Europe?
I see more and more films from Central and Eastern Europe at major festivals. There are interesting themes rooted in our reality; our unsophisticated, direct way of approaching these topics; and a strong sense of dignity regardless of how big the budget is and how serious the problems of the characters are.

Is there anything new prepared for festival visitors?
KVIFF has not changed the cost of its festival pass for the last 16 years, so in that sense, no news is good news. If you're fed up with the movies, there's no need to leave, as there are also many events related to other artistic disciplines. 

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