The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is the largest film festival in the Czech Republic and one of the most prestigious festivals in Central and Eastern Europe. Each year it takes place in a picturesque and seductive spa town and presents the premieres of more than 200 new films from around the world. KVIFF is also one of the oldest A-list film festivals with a competition for feature-length fiction films, all produced during the previous season and not shown at any other festival in international competition. The second important section in the festival is East of the West, an international competition of debuts and second feature-length films made in Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, and the countries of the former Soviet Union, all shown as world, international, or European premieres.
The official program at this year's main competition included twelve films, mostly from European countries, eight world premieres and four international premieres. Most of the films focused on familiar themes in contemporary European cinema, such as Otherness, family relations, and faith. The biggest winner of the Grand Prix Crystal Globe was the Hungarian film It's Not the Time of My Life (Ernelláék Farkaséknál), directed by Szabolcs Hajdu. Taking place within the confines of one small apartment, the film delineates in a realistic manner a midlife crisis in marriage. The filmmaker Hajdu also took home the best actor award for his main role in the film. The Special Jury Prize went to Ivan I. Tverdovskiy’s Zoology (Zoologiya), a fantasy tale about a middle-aged woman who one day finds out she has grown a tail, an event that turns her life upside down. Special Jury Mentions went to Catalin Mitulescu’s By the Rails (Dincolo de calea ferata), a film about a young couple drifting apart after spending a year away from each other, and to The Wolf from Royal Vineyard St. (Vlk z Královských Vinohrad), a quasi-autobiography about the life of the late Czech director Jan Nemec. The FIPRESCI jury decided to grant its main prize in the official competition to Sven Taddicken’s Original Bliss (Gleißendes Glück), a daring and provocative German film about a woman struggling to pave her way through disturbed relationships and deviant addictions. The film also won the Europa Cinemas Label Award for the best European film in both the official competition and the East of the West competition. Within the similarly strong documentary competition, the Best Documentary Film Award went this year to Alma Har’el’s LoveTrue, a poetic and genre-bending film that borders on fantasy.
In the non-competition section Horizons, the festival screened Julieta, the latest film of Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. The screening was attended by the two actresses who played the film’s title role, Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suárez. The festival also included a tribute to the controversial work of American independent filmmaker Otto Preminger, showing eight of his films, including the classic film-noir Laura. The closing ceremony of the festival included a screening of the new Woody Allen’s film Café Society. Before it, the President’s Award was personally received by screenwriter, director and producer Charlie Kaufman, Oscar winner for his script for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. His latest Anomalisa was screened in his honor at the festival. In addition, the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema went this year to the leading film and theatre actor and two-time Oscar nominee Willem Defoe. (Edited by Demetrios Matheou)