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“Cannes came after us“

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Kryštof Mucha, the executive director of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, tells café babel why the Czech event is not to be missed.

How does Karlovy Vary compare to other European film festivals?

Although we are in the same category, I cannot compare it to Cannes, Berlin or Venice, which are the biggest film festivals in the world. But Karlovy Vary is close on their heels. What makes Karlovy Vary special is the fact that it is the most prominent festival of this kind in Central and Eastern Europe. We have got films and professional representatives from Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, which makes us the most important event in the area, especially because we can reach as far as Ukraine and Latvia. It is an occasion to present films and projects to buyers from Western Europe, America and to the representatives of other film festivals. Imagine that you are a film distributor in France and you want to know more about events in the Central and Eastern European film industry. The only way for you to get this information is to visit Karlovy Vary where we will show these projects.

Was the festival very different during the communist regime?

The first Karlovy Vary film festival took place in 1946, Cannes came after us. But during the communist regime we had to alternate the venue for the festival with Moscow. That is why this year we will be celebrating its 40th year and not the 59th as it ought to be. All those communist festivals were used only as promotional material. And yet some people, such as the [surrealist Spanish director] Luis Buñuel, were enchanted by it. Also a lot of left-wing Americans visited the festival during communist times. Many interesting people used to come here but, when the communist regime started to crumble, nobody visited Karlovy Vary. Only when [actor and president of the festival] Jiri Bartoska and [artistic director] Zaoralova came in did it start to get better.

Has it become easier for Karlovy Vary to get European funding since the Czech Republic joined the EU?

Not really. We are not orientated towards showing just European films, the only important thing for us is the quality [of the films], and so we do not quite fit into these funds. However, Viviane Reding, who is the EU Commissioner for information society and media, will be coming and we will try to cooperate with her.

In what way will be this year different from previous ones?

It will be even more popular and beautiful! The cinema will have 320 more seats and so there will be 1,500 more tickets for sale. We have also made access to the cinema easier than before. There will be lots of European actors, interesting film directors and this year many people from America will visit us, including Robert Redford and Sharon Stone. And of course, the films will be newer and better.

40th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Czech Republic

1 to 9 July, 2005