It’s Czech party time for Richard Gere

Music and fireworks greet star in Karlovy Vary.

by Richard Mowe

A spectacular montage on film traced the history of the Karlovy Vary international Film Festival over its half century
A spectacular montage on film traced the history of the Karlovy Vary international Film Festival over its half century

There was dancing and music in the streets as well as fireworks tonight (3 July) as the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival celebrated the start of its golden 50th anniversary in style as the party spilled over in to all corners of this normally sedate spa town in the Bohemian countryside south of Prague. The balmy temperatures also added to the atmosphere and augured well for the rest of its run.

Face in the crowd … Richard Gere at tonight’s opening of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Face in the crowd … Richard Gere at tonight’s opening of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Photo: Richard Mowe

The organisers were keen that the egalitarian event should allow everyone to celebrate including the legion of students and other visitors who camp out under the stars to satiate their passion for film over the next ten days. For the VIPs and other Festival guests there was an after-party at the fabled Hotel Pupp where many of the stellar guests reside including Richard Gere, the recipient of a Crystal Globe for career achievement and outstanding contribution to world cinema.

Gere, 65, received a standing ovation at the screening and opening ceremony in the vast Thermal Grand Hall, accompanied by Hunger Games star Jena Malone who plays his daughter in the opening film Time Out Of Mind and its director Oren Moverman (of The Messenger and Rampart) with whom Gere has worked on three previous occasions.

Trying gallantly to get the audience to stop clapping and sit down, Gere told them: “It is really an incredible honour to be here and I don’t take it lightly. I never get used to these things and I never take them for granted. I always get nervous at these events so I am just going to wing it.

Globe trotter: Richard Gere proudly receives his Crystal Globe for career achievement at tonight’s opening (3 July) of the 50th anniversary edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Globe trotter: Richard Gere proudly receives his Crystal Globe for career achievement at tonight’s opening (3 July) of the 50th anniversary edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Photo: Richard Mowe

“These events help to remind me of what I do because sometimes I forget. I have been doing this a long time but my main job is as a father and everyone here must know what that entails. That is real life. And then I have this other thing that I have been dong for 40 years which is making movies.”

The star of Pretty Woman and An Officer And A Gentleman noted that he had started acting when he was 19. He added: “I could not imagine at 19 what I would be doing at 65. Here I am at this incredible Festival and all you amazing people in the audience and those watching on television. I do not even remember some of these films that you have seen clips of. As actors we tell stories and I remember there is an old Jewish saying that God created men and women because he loved stories. There are ten million people in the Czech republic and even if they are not all watching that is an incredible number of stories. So we are all part of this inter-connected universe. We are sharing the love of story-telling and specifically in the movies. It changed my life in an extraordinary way.”

Gere said that he had come from a very small town - with 2000 people. “It was inconceivable that someone would break out of that small town and engage the international community. There is not any story in the universe that is unique to itself and separate - they are all inter-connected and none of us are separate. All the people who worked with me on the 50 or so movies I have done deserve this much as I do because if they had messed up I wouldn’t have won through. I love the fact that in making movies we are all in it together.”

Jena Malone from Hunger Games and director Oren Moverman on stage at the opening of the 50th Edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Jena Malone from Hunger Games and director Oren Moverman on stage at the opening of the 50th Edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Photo: Richard Mowe

Besides presenting some of his greatest hits including Pretty Woman, Gere stars in another new film in the Festival, Franny by Andrew Renzi, which also will be shown in the Festival. He plays a philanthropist who gets involved in the lives of a young married couple in an attempt to compensate for traumas of the past.

Although the Festival celebrates its 50th birthday this year the anniversary does not count the years under Communism when the Festival used to alternate between Moscow and Karlovy Vary. The first edition was in 1946 and it was tightly controlled by its political masters.

Now the event embraces and nurtures new talent from all corners of the globe as well as the throwing the spotlight on central and eastern European productions and countries such as the Philippines whose cinema is often neglected.

The Festival continues until 11 July.

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