Film Scouts Diaries

2008 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries
Diary #1: Crystal Balls, I Mean, Globes

by Henri Béhar

Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, July 4, 2008 -- Just leafing though the catalogue in the car that takes one from the Prague airport to the health resort formerly known as Carlsbad, one has the feeling that, for its 43rd edition, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has added several more courses to its menu. Indeed, the Table of Contents is getting longer every year. Beside the usual sections – among them the Official Selection (in and out of competition), East of the West (in and out of competition), Documentary Films (in and out of competition), Forum of the Independents, Horizons, Open Eyes, Another View and Variety Critics Choice – there seems to be an inordinate number of Tributes, Special Focuses and Retrospectives (there is a reason for that, more in a couple of days)

Twenty minutes to go to one's room, unpack, shower and don the black tie – then off to the Opening Night ceremony. The film to be shown is Barry Levinson's Cannes-closer What Just Happened, based on producer Art Linson's autobiographical memoir, and the guest of honor is none other than Robert de Niro, here to receive a special Crystal Globe for his Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema. Said award is a statuette representing a (naked?) woman holding a crystal ball above her head, hence the name.

The sponsors are acknowledged and thanked, the officials are introduced, along with the members of the various juries, the lights go down in the theatre abuzz with anticipation for… the Karlovy Vary trailer.

Usually made by one of the country's top directors (nearly a decade ago, Jan Sverak directed a memorable one that featured a black cat), the Festival trailer, the mini-opus that is screened before each film, is generally perceived as setting the tone for the entire event. This year, the Festival came up with no less than seven trailers.

The first set of three, in color animation, features the Pink Panther introducing the three head honchos of the Festival: Jiri Bartoska (chain-smoking, begoggled president), Eva Zaoralová (artistic director) and Marek Eben (official emcee).

The second set – four black-and-white shorts –takes a decidedly ironic look at four of the past winners and describes, in a self-mocking way, where they have put their precious statuette and what they now do with it. Danny de Vito (winner in 2007) has placed it by his bed and uses it to smash the phone whose ring threatens to wake him up. In a deliberate recall of his One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Czech-born, US-based Milos Forman uses it to reduce tablets of… aspirin ? to powder which he then ingests. Muttering in Czech, Vera Chytilová (winner 2000) tries to glue her smashed Globe back into shape and, failing, ends up wrapping it in transparent Scotch tape. Finally, sitting in a seedy Brooklyn café, his foot in a plaster cast, Harvey Keitel blames that "asshole [in Karlovy Vary] who dropped the award on (my) foot." "Well, shit happens", the bartender comments. Keitel stares at him for the longest time. "What?" the bartender says. Keitel looks away, picks up his beer and mutters, in this most murderous Bad Lieutenant mode, "Shit happens." Wanna bet these shorts will become a permanent fixture at the Festival?

Finally, Robert de Niro came on stage and was greeted by a standing ovation that lasted a good and thunderous ten minutes. Handing back his statuette to President Bartoska, he delivered his acceptance speech half in English and half in a delightfully chaotic approximation of Czech. That, too, got a standing ovation.

After the screening and the (luscious) opening night party, we all staggered back to our hotels to ponder over the catalogue and the programming sheets in order to work out a suitable screening schedule. We all gave up: with so many world- or international premieres, one would need a Crystal Ball to determine which film is a must-see and which is a must-avoid.

Next Installment

Back to Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.