Karel Och from Karlovy Vary talks about quotas, criticism and the need for dialogue
Returning after not one but two cancellations caused by the pandemic, the Karlovy Vary Film Festival enters its final days, with artistic director Karel Och retrospective already on the 55th edition, postponed from August 20 to 28.
“It was a good decision to postpone,” he said Variety, noting that the streamlined program, with 25 titles less than usual, has met audience needs. “I think people liked the fact that even if they came just for a day, they could see what they wanted to see.”
The event hosted such figures as Ninja Thyberg, Alice Diop, Berlinale winner Radu Jude, French DJ Laurent Garnier and “Compartment # 6” director Juho Kuosmanen, who interacted with viewers during a series of live questions and answers and discussions.
“We have this traditional sense of what the cinematic experience should be, of bringing in filmmakers and allowing these meetings, but we cannot stop the progress”, notes Och, also referring to the video platform of the festival, KVIFF.TV.
“The physical world and the online world don’t have to be mutually exclusive, they can work together. For film professionals this is, and will be for some time, a very strange experience. We are not used to traveling. But the regular audience, I think they will always come back. For them, it’s not just about movies, it’s about seeing people that you only see here, once a year. And if you have children, you leave them with their grandparents in Prague.
Och also spoke of the perceived lack of diversity of this year’s winners, including Czech director Jan Svěrák, who received the KVIFF President’s Award, as well as actors Michael Caine – recognized for their outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema – Ethan Hawke and Johnny Depp. Depp, set to receive the Donostia Award in San Sebastian as well, has become a controversial figure due to his legal issues. While the Spanish festival has decided to release a statement following the announcement, Karlovy Vary has chosen not to comment.
“When we had two women as guests, Julianne Moore and Patricia Clarkson [feted in 2019], no one really wrote about how wonderful it was. But that doesn’t bother us, ”he says.
“This year we have three men and we are about to welcome the fourth. Next year it might be different again. [With Michael Caine] no one suspected, including us, that a star of his caliber would even show up. Despite his health, he was very dedicated and it was a great first weekend, also because of him. We understand the need for dialogue and we like to present our point of view, but we support our guests regardless of the quotas, ”he adds, mentioning special sections dedicated to female directors held in previous editions and a long collaboration. date with his predecessor, Eva. Zaoralová. Och, present at the event since 2001, was appointed artistic director in 2010, while Jiří Bartoška continues his reign as president.
“He’s a strange festival beast. You watch a festival trailer with Casey Affleck and the main prize, the Crystal Globe, has just been destroyed. It’s our sense of humor, ”he says. In the 2018 video, the American actor was shown trying to sell his trophy to a pawnshop. “That being said, we have more women on the committee than men. Before, it would never occur to me to talk about it, but that’s the rhetoric of today, ”he adds.
“Sometimes people come to us with ideas, but we’ll never sign anything without having had a conversation first,” says Och, referring to the 50/50 commitment to gender balance. “I know a lot of filmmakers who don’t want that kind of support. Some issues can be “held hostage” by groups that won’t even discuss them with interested parties and in the age of social media, information travels quickly and can be easily misinterpreted. We stand behind what we stand for and we will always explain it to those who want to criticize it, ”he said.
“I look around and see people getting excited about the movies. I just met the parents of a colleague of mine and they told me that none of the movies they saw this year were “stupid”. Which is, by far, the best feedback I have received this year.
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