There are many top-tier film festivals around the world. Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Toronto are all synonymous with celebrations of cinema. However, below this top rung there is another festival circuit boasting a plethora of exciting events on the international film calendar. One such annual fixture takes place in a small city named Karlovy Vary. Where is Karlovy Vary, you might ask? The Bohemia region of the Czech Republic.
This month, the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) will be screening a modern selection of Czech and Slovak features, along with some older programming produced prior to the 1993 dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
From Wednesday, 11 October – Saturday, 14 October, the NFSA will be screening eight films exploring the contemporary culture and historical happenings of the region.
Opening Night on Wednesday 11 October will showcase new black-comedy-crime-thriller The Line (2017), which marks the first official Slovak-Ukrainian co-production. The feature explores the complications arising from a family-run cigarette smuggling operation into the EU from Ukraine via Slovakia. Following the latter’s accession to the Schengen zone, a ripple of ramifications ensues for both family and business. To celebrate this newly-created piece of history, canapés and cocktails will be served from 6:00 pm followed by the screening at 7:00 pm.
Thursday 12 October presents another recent release in A Prominent Patient (2016), this time from the Czech Republic. The piece casts a reflective gaze on a fateful period in the history of Czechoslovak Republic. Its focus is Jan Masaryk, son of the state’s influential first President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. With a narrative that shifts between timelines, the film contemplates the impotence Jan feels under the crushing weight of family legacy and his powerlessness to mitigate betrayals at both a personal and national level. Winner of a record 12 Czech Lions including Best Film. Screening will commence at 6:30 pm.
I, Olga Hepnarová (2016), will follow at 8:45 pm. Headlined by a Czech Lion-winning performance from Poland’s Michalina Olszañska in the titular role, this engrossing true crime exposé recalls Olga Hepnarová’s place in history as the last woman to be executed in Czechoslovakia. Filmed entirely in black and white and anchored by the presence of our subject in almost every frame, this existential drama charts the dramatic rise and fall of a notorious mass murderer.
The Classics component commences Friday 13 October with horror-comedy-drama The Cremator (1969) at 7:00 pm. Enjoy this mordant morsel of Czech film history as a crematorium operator is charmed by Nazis during the occupation of Czechoslovakia amid WWII.
In keeping with the evening’s theme, continue the camp creepiness at 9:00 pm with Morgiana (1972) as Iva Janžurová pulls double-shifts as twin sisters in a tale of sibling rivalry in this venomous and vibrant production.
Saturday 14 October delivers the festival’s final three features. Screening at 2:00 pm courtesy of the National Film Archive in Prague, Old Czech Legends (1952) is a feature-length puppet animation of six folk tales borne of the foundational myths and legends of the Czech people. The tales were taken from Alois Jirásek’s 1894 book of the same name and brought to the screen in a work which has recently enjoyed full digital restoration and has influenced countless stop-motion animators.
From Slovakia, the penultimate festival feature is the 1965 Oscar Winner for Best Foreign Language Film The Shop on Main Street. Enjoy this 4K digital restoration of an unassuming man’s moral struggle against the implications of the ‘Aryanisation’ taking hold in his small town. Screening at 4:00 pm.
Closing Night on Saturday 14 October marries modern production and historical events with an international cast and crew in Anthropoid (2016). From British director Sean Ellis (Metro Manila, Cashback), the 2016 Karlovy Vary Opening Night feature stars Jamie Dornan, Cillian Murphy, Charlotte Le Bon and Czech Anna Geislerová in a compelling account of Operation Anthropoid – the 1942 plan to assassinate Nazi Reinhard Heydrich. Gripping and authentic, the film was nominated for 12 Czech Lions. Screening will commence at 7:00 pm and is dedicated to the late Tatana Mihulka.
All films will screen in their original language with English subtitles. Tickets are $15/$13.
For more information and bookings, visit: https://www.nfsa.gov.au/events/czech-and-slovak-film-festival-australia
Czech it out!