Demons are forever in Karlovy Vary

Awards for Affeck, Thurman and Howard

by Richard Mowe

Blood and gore was the theme of the opening night of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, devised by brothers Michael and Simon Caban. The aim was to evoke gothic films from the silent era - accompanied by the ranks of the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra. On stage, left, is Festival President Jiří Bartoška.
Blood and gore was the theme of the opening night of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, devised by brothers Michael and Simon Caban. The aim was to evoke gothic films from the silent era - accompanied by the ranks of the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra. On stage, left, is Festival President Jiří Bartoška. Photo: Richard Mowe
With a healthy dollop of blood and gore in a horror film pastiche filled with writhing female forms and a grim reaper with an axe plus a sweetness and light romantic comedy as the opening choice, the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival launched itself in a traditionally eclectic style.

Uma Thurman - another Crystal Globe honoree at the opening of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Uma Thurman - another Crystal Globe honoree at the opening of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Photo: Richard Mowe
The rocky horror show was devised by the brothers Caban (Michael and Simon) with a strong influence from Gothic silent movies all washed down by the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra taking over most of the stage and copious bottles of bubbly from a champagne sponsor.

The opening choice of film was the exact opposite to all the sturm und drang - a sweetness and light romantic comedy The Big Sick in which the Pakistani-American comic Kumail Nanjani (playing a fictionalised version of himself) proves there is life left in a well-worn genre. He wrote it with his wife Emily V Gordon - and it’s based on their lives and relationships.

No opening ceremony at Karlovy Vary, a quaint Bohemian spa town two hours south of Prague, would be complete without an array of Crystal Globe awards for attending talent with actors Casey Affleck and Uma Thurman in the limelight with composer James Newton Howard.

Affleck, in the Czech Republic to support the release of A Ghost Story, was first in line, saying: “There is nothing more humbling to watch a reel of movies that you did when you were younger. Thank you for having me as your guest in this beautiful place. It is quite an honour. Anyone who work in the arts, is resigned to the fact that you do work that is destined not be seen by lots of people but I am OK with that because probably you are doing the right thing. The Festival is an opportunity to see those works which might not otherwise see and to cheer other people’s work.”

Casey Affleck (A Ghost Story) was a Crystal Globe recipient
Casey Affleck (A Ghost Story) was a Crystal Globe recipient Photo: Richard Mowe
Uma Thurman echoed Affleck’s thoughts, agreeing that it is “strange to see your life pass before your eyes in the clips that have just been shown.”

She added: “I made my first film when I was 16, and now I am 47 which means I have given 31 years of my life to telling stories. It has been a privilege and an honour - but it is the audience that really allows us to keep doing what we love and having that passion kept alive in our lives. I am so grateful to you and also grateful for the fact that I have had more than 30 years of doing what I love and to have three lovely, healthy children who are here tonight. They are my greatest pieces of art!”

The composer who has scored such films as The Hunger Games and Batman Begins, James Newton Howard when confronted with the long list of films on which he has worked, felt that “perhaps it was time for me to retire.”

He added: “It is a large body of work and I am forever grateful to the film industry because without it my life would have been nothing like it is now. I grew up in a town outside Los Angeles and it is famous for McDonald's and gas stations so to be here in a place like Karlovy Vary is truly magical. The Czech people have produced such great music and films that the bond between us is so strong.”

Joining the Karlovy Vary Crystal Globe club - film composer James Newton Howard who has scored such mega hits as Hunger Games, Batman Begins, and I Am Legend. He received his award at last night’s opening ceremony.
Joining the Karlovy Vary Crystal Globe club - film composer James Newton Howard who has scored such mega hits as Hunger Games, Batman Begins, and I Am Legend. He received his award at last night’s opening ceremony. Photo: Richard Mowe
The festival has survived all kinds of cliff edges in its 52 years. The Communist regime used it to for propaganda and after the fall of the regime it almost vanished. It was saved with the help of the Karlovy Vary City, Ministry of Culture and Grandhotel Pupp. The well-known Czech actor Jiří Bartoška has been The President of this festival since 1993.

The lineup this year shows filmmakers grappling with such social issues ranging as Europe’s refugee crisis to escalating tensions in autocratic states.

It has a reputation for showcasing the best work from eastern and central Europe, as well as from India, Azerbaijan and Kosovo.

The East of the West section features titles from 12 filmmakers, including ten world premieres.

Among the potential highlights to come is producer, musician and two-time Oscar-nominee Jeremy Renner, who will received the Festival’s Presidents Award and introduce the crime thriller Wind River, directed by Taylor Sheridan, in which he stars.

The Karlovy International Film Festival runs until July 8.

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