Karlovy Vary celebrates with beer and sausages

2nd July 2007, Comments 0 comments

2 July 2007, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic (dpa) - Film festivals have a reputation for elitism. But this is not necessarily the case with the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, which in the last few years has moved to reclaim its position as one of world's key movie fests. Held in the Czech Republic's historic spa town near the German border, Karlovy Vary is also one of the world's oldest film festivals having re-emerged on the international film industry's annual calendar over the last decade or so. However, unl

2 July 2007

Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic (dpa) - Film festivals have a reputation for elitism. But this is not necessarily the case with the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, which in the last few years has moved to reclaim its position as one of world's key movie fests.

Held in the Czech Republic's historic spa town near the German border, Karlovy Vary is also one of the world's oldest film festivals having re-emerged on the international film industry's annual calendar over the last decade or so.

However, unlike the world's top three film festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Venice, Karlovy Vary has a somewhat more popular and relaxed feel to it.

The grey monolithic Soviet-era Thermal Hotel, which lies at the heart of the historic spa town and at the festival's centre, is surrounded by vast tents pumping out beers, dishing out Czech sausages and corn on the cob to the throngs of people who have descended on Karlovy Vary for the festival.

"We are always like this here", said Anezka, who had made the one-and-half hour trip to Karlovy Vary from Prague with a group of friends and was attempting to edge her way through the buoyant crowds balancing a tray of beers.

No one seems to mind that the food does not exactly measure up to Cannes or that A-list celebrities are not quite as thick on the ground as at the world's top three film festivals.

Indeed, with Karlovy Vary screening the winners from Cannes, Berlin and Venice it also means a chance to catch some of the world's top movies long before they finalize their worldwide general releases.

Karlovy Vary's history as a spa resort stretches back to the 14th century with the town's guests over the centuries having included some of the leading figures of European culture, political power and royalty such as Richard Wagner, JS Bach, Sigmund Freud, as well as Tsar Peter the Great and Karl Marx.

However, Karlovy Vary's party mood and the vast crowds happily downing vast quantities of beer appear to give a new meaning to the town's fame as a place to take the waters.

As the festival gets underway, Thermal Hotel at night becomes the centre of live pop concerts and events with some famous movie theme music often played in between.

Three teenage actors from Estonian director Ilmar Raag's The Class, which is screening at Karlovy Vary, even took to the stage on to perform with the Festival Band, which was formed by three Central European film festival directors, all strangely enough named Stefan.

The three directors - Stefan Laudyn from the Warsaw Film Festival, Stefan Uhrik from Karlovy Vary's Forum of Independents section and Stefan Kitanov, the director of the Sofia Film Festival found the lure of the Karlovy Vary party atmosphere too much and decided they should do something about bringing music and film together.

The mood inside the Thermal Hotel is not that much different.

But then with a bar, it seems, every few paces you can't seem to go wrong as Karlovy Vary's more staid spa goers give way to a different type of visitor during the festival.

For about 8 days the Thermal Hotel building overflows with large groups of movie enthusiasts and people camped outside cinemas for the chance to grab at least a couple of films at the fest.

Karlovy Vary's reputation as celebrating student filmmaking with a special section has also helped to result in the festival been seen as offering a fresher alternative to some of its bigger cousins in other parts of the world.

The consequence was that Karlovy Vary also developed a name as something of a backpackers' festival as student film fans and young cinema goers flocked to the town for the movie marathon setting up their sleeping bags and backpacks in local dorms and even a gym.

But Karlovy Vary has glammed up in recent years as its importance to the global movie business has grown - somewhat to the chagrin of Renee Zellweger who was the guest of honour at the festival's open night.

Unfortunately, Zellweger's airline lost her luggage and the Hollywood star had to walk the festival red carpet in jeans during the opening ceremony.

DPA

Subject German news

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