Film Scouts Diaries

2005 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries
Day 3, Part 3: From “Who Are You?” To VIP… And Back

by Henri Béhar

Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, July 3. — In town to present his latest opus, Where the Truth Lies, in which Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon play a famous singer-and-comedian duet that split ages ago (a hint: the comedian also hosts telethons), Cairo-born Canadian-Armenian director Atom Egoyan is having drinks with a bunch of friends at the bar of the Pupp Hotel. As he marvels a) at how efficiently the Karlovy Vary Festival is run and, b) at the charge of energy he got last night from an audience that mixed past-middle-aged spa customers and young film students cum back-packers, he is told by festival veterans that yes, if the city formerly knows as Carlsbad is one of the best-known health resorts in Europe, in recent years, the influx of young film fans flocking in for the Festival from all over the country has lowered the median age of the population from 70 to 28. Very astutely, the Festival has done everything to accommodate this new crowd (cheap tickets, a special cloak room for backpacks) and the police have consistently looked the other way when, come midnight, said back-packers unfurl their sleeping bags and set up camp in the public parks, on the river banks, or in the woods behind the Thermal Hotel swimming pool. (If truth must be told, the campers do a splendid job tidying up in the morning, leaving the place absolutely pristine). And so, within the last fifteen years, the Karlovy Vary Festival has turned into a Czech Woodstock.

A fact confirmed by Danish director Thomas (Celebration) Winterberg, in town to introduce Dear Wendy, a quirky tale of a guy who falls in love with a gun, which was written by Dogme co-founder Lars von Trier: "I was at the Festival some 13, 15 years ago," Winterberg said. "I was a student, I just got a ticket and slept with four other people in a sleeping hall."

As he left the Pupp bar, Winterberg crossed paths with American director Alexander Payne, whose Academy-Award-celebrated Sideways was to be shown out of competition. Usually the epitome of equanimity, Payne seemed exhausted. "I am sick and tired of hearing my own words," he said with a wan smile. "I am not used to spending so much time talking about myself. It goes against my very nature. I usually operate from the inside out; what I like most is being able to observe." Egoyan empathized: "I know the feeling." After a year on the road promoting Sideways internationally, Payne seems now eager to get back to work. Rumor has it that he has already started writing his next movie.

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