Karlovy Vary celebrates cinema as a people's film festival (Feature)
By Andrew McCathie Jul 5, 2009, 13:56 GMT
Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic - Mira and Filip would like to sleep off the night before's partying, but Ryan has other ideas.
'We're going to cram in as many movies as possible before we go back to Prague,' said the 18-year-old American student.
Ryan has only been in Prague a matter of weeks but he was quick to join the hordes of students who flock to Karlovy Vary each year for the small historic Czech spa town's annual film festival.
Camping out and enduring long queues, the mass of students and young people heading to Karlovy Vary has become a unique feature of what is one of the world's oldest movie festivals and which prides itself on being a people's movie festival.
Indeed, film festivals have a reputation for elitism.
But unlike the world's top three film festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Venice, Karlovy Vary has a somewhat more popular and relaxed feel it, which many in the movie industry say gives them the chance to pin down some deals away from the bustle and sometimes self-importance of other big motion picture events.
The grey monolithic Soviet-era Thermal Hotel, which lies both at the heart of Karlovy Vary and the festival, is surrounded by vast tents pumping out beers and dishing out Czech sausages to the buoyant crowds who descend on the town each year for the festival.
Moreover, the large quantities of beer downed by movie goers during 8 days of partying in Karlovy Vary appear to have given a new meaning to the town's fame as a place to take the waters.
But then with a bar it seems at every few paces inside the Thermal Hotel complex, what else can you expect with the Karlovy Vary's often youthful movie enthusiasts offering a rather fresher alternative to the town's normally more staid spa goers.
Cannes might be famous for its Mediterranean beachfront, Berlin might have its melancholy winters and Venice might have its gondolas.
But nestled between wooded hills dotted with stately baroque villas and with the Telpa River gently making its way through the centre of the town, it is hard to deny Karlovy Vary's own special brand of charm.
No-one seems to mind that that the food does not measure up to Cannes or that the A-list celebrities are not quite as thick on the ground as the world's leading movie festivals.
That is not to say that Karlovy Vary is without any star power with Spanish-born Antonio Banderas, French actress Isabelle Huppert, US actor John Malkovich and Czech veteran director Milos Forman this year adding their names to the roll call of movie industry greats who have made the trip over the years to Karlovy Vary.
This includes Robert Redford, Robert De Niro and Sean Connery.
Without an established film market for movie buying and selling, which is a major part of festival life in Cannes or Berlin, Karlovy Vary also appears to have escaped relatively unscathed from the fallout from the world economic crisis.
While the credit crunch has dampened the spirits at other movie festivals, Karlovy Vary seems each year to become more glammed up, kicking off its festival with a Hollywood-style red-carpet opening night and a glittering black-tie reception at one of the town's luxury hotels.
What is more, major festival sponsors don't seem to be in the mood for taking more sober approach to Karlovy Vary.
Mingling with the crowds in Karlovy Vary this year has been several orange (as opposed to pink) panthers which are the mascots for one of the festival's key sponsors the Czech energy giant Skupina Cez.
Like the students who help to rock Karlovy Vary along, the 8-day festival also represents the chance for the studio bosses to catch up with some of the world's top new movies.
Karlovy Vary includes in its 200-movie plus program films that have won critical acclaim in Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Sundance in the US.
What is more, as a major showcase for Central and Eastern European cinema, Karlovy Vary is an opportunity to see movies from nations such as Bulgaria, Albania and Kazakhstan that are going to find it tough to secure distribution deals.
Having studied the festival's guide, Ryan has mapped out a big programme for his party weary friends starting with an Israeli sumo wrestler movie followed by a drama about gang warfare and the Mexican migrants who try to flee to the US on the roofs of trains. He's got lots of other ideas.
But then with tickets costing 65 koruna (3.5 dollars) or 50 koruna, why not?