KVIFF Enthralled with Documentary Figures

About the relationship between Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and documentary movies

Illustration: Michaela Kukovičová

The 50th anniversary edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival was marked, among other things, with the production of an edited documentary, Film Spa. Archival footage collected not only from various reports, both comical or more-or-less politically engaged, are accompanied with a commentary by the festival’s long-term artistic director and consultant of Karlovy Vary festival, Eva Zaoralová, speaking to film historians and personalities closely tied with the history of the festival. Film Spa will be premiered in Karlovy Vary, but as it happens, some Czech cinemas already showed it in pre-release. According to the film’s director, Míra Janek, in terms of box office figures, Scala cinema selling 28 tickets in Brno beat the Hradec Králové Bio Central where the film was screened for a mere 18 spectators. How many visitors will arrive to the anniversary edition of KVIFF and how many go to see a documentary screening?

According to information provided by Eva Zaoralová, in 1994, KVIFF was visited by 36,000 visitors, and last year’s figures demonstrate an increase by almost 95,000 visitors. Gone are the times when, as the documentary footage in Film Spa shows, Thermal hotel sufficed with 500 breakfasts, lunches and dinners per day in six different versions and the adjacent café served over 2,000 cups of coffee each festival day. A similar upward trend is notable also in submissions to documentary film competition (existing since 2000), Martin Horyna from the Programme Department informed us that the number of submitted films increases year by year. “16 titles are selected for the competition and approx. 10 – 15 are shown outside the competition section. Each year, we try to select 1 to 2 Czech documentary films, which is usually no problem, given the high quality of Czech documentary production,” said Horyna.

Although KVIFF logically dedicates less programme slots to documentary films than to fiction films (documentary films cannot be included in the main competition regardless of their quality), almost each documentary film screened at the festival sells out the screening hall. “All screenings are usually sold-out and the number of spectators depends on the capacity of the hall where the individual titles are screened,” said Horyna explaining why is it so difficult to determine the exact figures.

In the last 15 years, international juries have awarded about 30 best documentary films of over 30 minutes of running time (the running time criteria changed last year, newly introducing categories of under 30 minutes and over 60 minutes) and expert juries presented twenty-three special mentions. The awards most frequently found their way to Scandinavia, Russia, Austria, but they often also stay at home. Four Czech documentary films have so far garnered the jury’s Special Mention – episode Trapped from the series Women on the Brink of Millennium and Private Universe by Helena Třeštíková, No Regrets by Theodora Remundová and Other Worlds by Marko Škopa. Three more documentary awards stayed at home – the Best Documentary Film Award for Fillip Remunda’s Village B., Lost Holiday by Lucie Králová and Osadné by Marko Škopa.

This year, the main documentary film competition again features 16 titles from across the world. Aside from films from Finland, Switzerland and the UK, three Czech nominees will be vying for the award – America by Jan Foukal – a probe into the life of Czech tramps, Helena Třeštíková’s Mallory, a recounting 13 years in life of a former drug addict, and Resort , a debut by an up-and-coming documentarist, Martin Hrubý. Will Helena Třeštíková accomplish the famed “hat trick” or will the newcomer Martin Hrubý take the prize? We will find out on 11 July.

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival starts at July 3.

Translated by Barbora Rozkošná

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29. 06. 2015

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