KVIFF rebuffs Ukrainian protest

Karlovy Vary organisers defend inclusion of film, which is 'critical of Russian regime'

by Richard Mowe

Karlovy Vary selection Captain Volkonogov Escaped 'an indirect, but very distinct criticism of the current Russian 
 state regime'
Karlovy Vary selection Captain Volkonogov Escaped 'an indirect, but very distinct criticism of the current Russian state regime' Photo: Courtesy of KVIFF
After a protest from Ukrainian filmmakers about the screening of the Russian film Captain Volkonogov Escaped in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, which starts on Friday, the event’s organisers have assured them that “we fully sympathise with all citizens of Ukraine”.

The have also pointed out that the Czech Republic is one of the most active European countries in terms of supporting Ukraine, providing humanitarian, political and military aid as well as accepting nearly 400,000 war refugees since the beginning of the conflict.

The festival has offered partnership to the Works in Progress project of the Odesa Film Festival and will welcome four Ukrainian films in the line-up and screen the film Mariupol 2 - directed by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius, who was killed in Ukraine - which provides “a unique testimony about the war and the city which became one of its tragic symbols”.

Jiří Bartoška, Kryštof Mucha, and Karel Och (respectively the president, executive director, and artistic director) suggest Captain Volkonogov Escaped is “one of the most remarkable films from the last year’s edition of Venice Film Festival. Although the film is set in 1938, quite obvious parallels with the current situation can be found in its story. We believe that the film provides a fitting description of how the manipulative actions of a despotic leader can influence the mindset of the majority of the society, purposefully create enemies of the regime in the name of ideology and ruthlessly annihilate them, and how such actions ultimately lead to a national tragedy.

“In this sense, we see the film Captain Volkonogov Escaped as an indirect, but very distinct criticism of the current Russian state regime.”

Festival director Karl Och suggests inclusion of Russian film 'can generate a public discussion which will draw attention to the overlap of the film’s main theme with current events'
Festival director Karl Och suggests inclusion of Russian film 'can generate a public discussion which will draw attention to the overlap of the film’s main theme with current events' Photo: Courtesy of KVIFF
The organisers conclude that by screening the film, they can generate a public discussion which will draw attention to the overlap of the film’s main theme with current events.

The festival, after 40 years under political pressures in socialist Czechoslovakia — including alternating every year with the Moscow International Film Festival — was reborn in 1994 following independence. Actor Bartoška and renowned film journalist the late Eva Zaoralová took over running the event.

They were helped by Oscar-winning Czech director Milos Foreman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt), who helped to promote the KVIFF in Hollywood leading to an array of starry names over the years among them Helen Mirren, Johnny Depp, Robert Pattinson and Ethan Hawke. This year’s special guest are Benicio Del Toro and Geoffrey Rush.

The Festival runs from until 9 July.

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