Film Scouts Diaries

1999 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries
Diary #4

by Henri Béhar

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic - Thursday, July 8, 1999

Bumped (literally) into Dutch-born actor Rutger Hauer just outside the Hotel Pupp. He was waiting for his limo, I presume. In town for Simon Magus, which I'm afraid I missed, the chief replicant from Blade Runner ("but there is life after Ridley Scott, you know," he usually replies tersely) looks buff. I mean, buffed up. Or is it beefed up? Whatever. He looks like he's been working out. Could it be that with Arnold asking for meatier parts, Sly taking some time off and Bruce being overworked, Rutger (find him a nickname, quick!) might be vying for the kind of action-with-brains movies that made Harrison Ford a superstar?

Bumped (literally) into Jiri (pronounced "Yerzhi", as in George). At last. We've been playing phone/message tag for days. You remember Jiri from last year, don't you? He studies biochemistry in Prague and comes every year to the Festival with his backpack, folded tent and rolled-up sleeping bag. He is quite representative of the Czech youth that flock to Karlovy Vary from all over the country to pig out on films. During the Festival, Jiri sees a minimum of five films a day. The rest of the year, he barely averages ten. If in "normal times", the median age in this health-resort is about 70, this influx brings it down to nearly 29. They sleep wherever they can, by the swimming pool of the Thermal (the management, bless them, looks the other way), by the river (the cops, bless them, look the other way), on the square in front of the Festival HQ (the event's organizers, bless them, look the other way) or on the platform which, mid-afternoon, turns into a stage for daily pop-rock concerts. Believe it or not, come morning, the beer cans and smoke packs are gone, the bags are neatly packed, the whole place is tidy. No wonder management, cops et al look the other way.

Bumped into the ambassador from Israel and his bodyguard. Every year, Mr. Ambassador takes some time off to come and see films. A very discreet presence (even his bodyguard, also a film fan, blends in), the ambassador and his wife pore over the daily schedule, line up like everybody else to get tickets at the guest office (okay, he goes to the super-VIP counter) and avoids anything that might remotely resemble a meeting.

This year, Israel was well served by serendipity: critic Daniel Fainaru was on the main jury, and there was an Israeli film in competition. (There was no Israeli party, but Israel has still a long way to go in terms of allocating funds for cultural events.) A first feature by Arik Kaplun, a Russian who emigrated to Israel, then left for the USA, then came back, Hachaverim Shel Yana ("Yana's Friends") is the story of a Russian couple that finally emigrates to Tel Aviv, but the husband returns to Russia "for a very short while, I swear", leaving his young wife resourceless in more ways than one. Yana has no money, she speaks no Hebrew, but she'll have to make do. Actually, spoken partly in Russian, partly in Hebrew, partly in Ladino (old Spanish), Yana's friends is more a portrait of the newly-settled Russian community in Tel Aviv, and what they do to make ends meet. It is in turns sweet, lucid, ironic and almost as sardonic as Ettore Scola's Down and Dirty (1976)

There is also a story behind Yana's Friends. A dead ringer for Daytrippers's Hope Davis, Evlyn Kaplun (the director's wife) used to be an stage actress in Russia. She came to Israel about ten years ago and somehow became a film editor, working, among other things, on her husband's stuff. She spent months with him looking for an Israel-based Russian actress who would play Yana. Until, finally, she stuck a note on the fridge - "there's one actress you may have overlooked" - along with a tape. And yes, Virginia, she got the part. And yes, Paul, she's very good.

Previous Installment | 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.