Karel Och • Artistic director, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
“We want to challenge the audience with a charming attack on the brain and the heart”
- Karel Och, the artistic director of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, discusses the expansion of its territorial scope and its “gently edgy” programme
Karel Och has been involved with the largest Czech film gathering, the Karlovy Vary International Film festival, in various guises for almost 20 years, and is currently serving as the festival’s artistic director for the ninth time. Och sat down with Cineuropa to discuss the upcoming edition, most notably the expansion of its territorial scope, the lack of domestic filmmakers in the main competition and why the KVIFF’s programme is “gently edgy”.
Cineuropa: How would you weigh up the previous edition with regard to the decision to extend the territorial scope to include countries in the Middle East? Have you been preparing any other changes for the 54th edition?
Karel Och: Frankly, I must say that it was a successful move that gave the KVIFF a lot of exposure in the MENA countries. Both of the documentaries competing last year – The Swing (Lebanon) and Dream Away [+see also:
film profile] (Germany/Egypt) – travelled to many festivals after their premiere at the KVIFF. A Lebanese project called All This Victory won KVIFF’s Works in Progress Award, worth €100,000, and two documentaries presented at the KVIFF’s Docs in Progress session last year were picked up by the Doha Film Institute for a post-production grant. I attended the industry events in Marrakech, Beirut and Doha, and I could feel that the producers from the Arab countries are placing their trust in Karlovy Vary much more than they have in the past.
Czech cinema had a pretty good run at last year’s edition of the KVIFF, so it is a bit surprising to see the main competition without any domestic filmmakers. What happened?
It’s a weak year for Czech film production – at least the first half of the year. Compared to some ten titles in 2018, this year, we received only two brand-new films for consideration, and we didn’t think either of them was suitable for the main competition. However, let’s not forget that we have two other competitions, each including a Czech film definitely deserving of attention: A Certain Kind of Silence [+see also:
interview: Michal Hogenauer
film profile] by Michal Hogenauer, in the East of the West competition; and Over the Hills [+see also:
interview: Martin Mareček
film profile] by Martin Mareček, in the documentary competition.
But Czech cinema does seem to be in rude health, as domestic filmmakers, both newcomers and more established ones, are well represented in other sections, including Czech-born, US-based director Martin Krejčí, who has made his debut as an American production. Plus, there are even more projects in the pipeline that are hotly anticipated. In your view, what is the state of health of Czech cinema in 2019? And what is the outlook for the coming year(s)?
The process of Czech filmmakers returning to the stage of world cinema is a slow one, and one that still lacks a certain regularity. Indeed, it seems like 2020 will once again offer an intriguing bunch of local titles. If every other year is a good one, we might eventually get somewhere – I remember gaps of a few years without any relevant Czech film taking part in an important festival abroad. And most importantly, we must not forget Czech animation, which is proving hugely successful at film events all around the world. This year, we have gathered together nine animated shorts from FAMU – an exceptional programme not to be missed!
The Horizons and Another View sections round up daring, formalistically inventive and thought-provoking films. Can you elaborate on the programming intentions behind these two sections?
This question gives me an opportunity to shower my team of programmers with praise – they are passionate film buffs and hard-working professionals united by a fearless dedication to capturing the most relevant examples of arthouse cinema. A friend of the festival once described the KVIFF’s programme as “gently edgy”, which we can fully identify with. We want to challenge the audience with a charming attack on the brain and the heart. And as for Imagina, we felt the need to protect this particular type of film by creating a safe haven with a clear definition. Obviously, the intensity of the challenge I mentioned above is much higher with the Imagina programme.
As we have mentioned the changes and transformation processes that other film festivals are grappling with, what is the future of the KVIFF? Are there any other changes in the pipeline?
The last ten years have been quite rich in complex changes: we have reshaped the programming structure quite intensely, and the same goes for the focus on a certain kind of cinema. All we can think of doing now is sharing the fruits of our year-long hard labour with both regular and professional audiences.
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