Robbins on the barricades in Karlovy Vary

Shawshank star laments return to bullying, intolerance and oppression

by Richard Mowe

Tim Robbins receives his Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Tim Robbins receives his Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Photo: Richard Mowe

The Oscar-winning star of The Shawshank Redemption and Mystic River Tim Robbins proved he has lost none of his acute political acumen when he received his Crystal Globe for outstanding achievement to cinema at the opening (29 June) of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic.

With an attack on the current incumbent of the White House as well as a lament about the return in many other parts of the world to oppression and illiberal values, Robbins (59) pulled no punches.

Director Richard Linklater introduced Karlovy Vary’s Made in Texas focus which showcases nine features and 13 shorts demonstrating the range of movies the state has produced over the past 40 years.
Director Richard Linklater introduced Karlovy Vary’s Made in Texas focus which showcases nine features and 13 shorts demonstrating the range of movies the state has produced over the past 40 years. Photo: Richard Mowe

With allusions to Back To The Future (he auditioned unsuccessfully for the role of Biff whom writer Bob Gale says was based on Donald Trump) Robbins suggested that society today was “in reverse.”

“The Fifties was not a romantic or nostalgic time but a veritable nightmare of bullying and intolerance. Despite our advances and despite our movements away from intolerance, racism and xenophobia, the clock has been turned back. Through the freedom of our votes we have chosen to go backwards to a world of ignorance and distrust fuelled by intolerance. Bullies have no power without fear and the strong have always tried to stay in power by dividing the weak.”

Robbins believed that artists and storytellers had a duty to create narratives that spoke to a world of progress promised by such revolutionaries as Martin Luther King, Vaclav Havel [the late Czech president) and Nelson Mandela. “Do not underestimate the power of stories to transform lives. We have to fight with our talent and wit and love to resist oppression,” he concluded to a standing ovation.

The Festival’s opening choice of film Loves Of A Blonde (made in 1965) was screened in tribute to director Milos Forman who died earlier this year. Robbins revealed that the veteran had been a significant influence on him and his career. He recalled meeting him in New York for a film project in which he might have been given a part.

Tim Robbins with his Crystal Globe
Tim Robbins with his Crystal Globe Photo: Richard Mowe

“He was dismayed because the film studio had called him in for a meeting and showed him the poster for the film which he had not yet cast,” said Robbins. “Forman, of course, told them to fuck off and the film never happened. But I ended up with an even deeper admiration and love for Forman. He was an artist first and would not compromise himself for profit. I found his integrity truly inspiring and it was always a touchstone in my own career.”

Robbins will present two of his films, the political satire Bob Roberts and Cradle Will Rock, as well as appearing in a special concert performance by Tim Robbins and the Rogues Gallery Band.

The opening ceremony also paid tribute on stage to the centenary of Czech national independence with a spectacular display of choreography, gymnastics mixed up with tricolours and garlands to mark the milestone.

Director Richard Linklater took the opportunity to salute the work of the Austin Film Society, the non-profit film organisation founded in 1985 that has grown into one of the key film institutions in the United States. Linklater who was founder and artistic director of AFS will be around for a special Made in Texas strand.

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival continues until 7 July

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