Storyteller Gibson sparkles with crystal

Karlovy Vary honours controversial star.

by Richard Mowe

Mel Gibson with the president of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Jiří Bartoška
Mel Gibson with the president of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Jiří Bartoška
With a traditional flurry of fireworks, a dash of controversy as well as the presence of a Hollywood legend in the shape of Mel Gibson, the 49th Karkovy Vary International Film Festival burst into being last night (July 4).

Gibson appeared on stage at the Grand Hall of the Thermal Hotel where the festival is based, to receive a Crystal Globe award for his “artistic contribution to world cinema”.

The award of an unadorned female form seemed to please Gibson who said: “This has always been my dream – to have a naked woman holding a ball.” The bemused star underlined the importance of storytellers in a changing world and declared he was “honoured and charmed”.

Not everyone has been as delighted as the Festival’s organisers with Gibson’s presence. The Czech Jewish Community has expressed dissatisfaction that he is being honoured protesting that his controversial 2004 film The Passion Of The Christ was “anti-Semitic”.

I Origins director Mike Cahill
I Origins director Mike Cahill
The opening film was Mike Cahill’s Sundance hit I Origins in which Michael Pitt stars as a young scientist whose work investigates the human eye. His research leads him to the discovery of links between the human physiognomy and psyche, with implications bordering on the mystical.

Explaining the idea behind the film, which is being released by Fox Searchlight, Cahill professed an interest in science and the fact everyone’s eye is unique – like a fingerprint. “Eyes are obviously much more beautiful than fingerprints. They’re like an art-work that is unique to you. And, of course, eyes are the window to the soul.”

He claimed that his biggest challenge was to make it authentic. “I wanted to be true to the scientific practice, while also keeping it entertaining. I wanted the cast to feel like real scientists and the work they were doing to be legitimate and reflect the reality, and yet at the same time, do so in an entertaining way.”

Cahill, whose cinematic influences have included Krzystof Kieslowski and Stanley Kubrick, has said he has already written the film’s sequel set 15 years in future.

After the screening, festival participants including Gibson and Cahill thronged the opulent surrounds of the fabled Hotel Pupp for the opening party, at which were served delicacies including roasted swordfish and tables groaning with hors d’oeuvres.

Asia Argento and Nuno Lopes in Obsessive Rhythms
Asia Argento and Nuno Lopes in Obsessive Rhythms
Other guests lining up over the next few days include American actress Laura Dern presenting a special screening of David Lynch’s Wild At Heart, and French actress Fanny Ardant with her second foray as a director Obsessive Rhythms with Gérard Depardieu, Franco Nero and Asia Argento.

The festival has a reputation for its warm-hearted hospitality, with umpteen bars in the town and parties ranging from glittering VIP events to sweaty beer tents.

With its emphasis on cinema from Eastern Europe, the 49th edition will see a restored version of Closely Observed Trains – directed by Jiří Menzel which won an Oscar in the mid-1960s.

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