Karlovy Vary gears up for 44th edition

Czech festival acts as buffer between Cannes, Venice

After the snowy hype of Sundance, the bustle in Berlin and the sheer craziness of Cannes, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival comes as sweet respite.

Now in its 44th edition, the Czech festival acts as a calm way station for cinema buffs and industry folk to regroup post-Cannes and pre-Venice and enjoy film without the adjunct "business."

The setting -- a West Bohemian spa town -- provides the necessary isolation while the screening schedule carefully balances recent festival winners with established art house faves and new work from independent directors the world over.

The competition vying for the 2009 Crystal Globe is strictly indie -- highlights include German comedy "Whisky with Vodka" from Andreas Dresen ("Cloud 9"), Sophie Barthes' directorial debut "Cold Souls" starring Paul Giamatti and minimalist drama "Twenty" from Iranian director Abdolreza Kahani.

But Karlovy Vary has also found space for mainstream entertainment such as Sam Mendes "Away We Go" and Brit comedy "The Boat That Rocked" from Richard Curtis, which will close the festival.

Karlovy Vary always carves out a big chunk of its schedule for cinema from the former East Block. Five of the 14 competition titles fit in this category. Dozens more "eastern" films can be found in the festivals' many sidebar sections.

For festival hoppers, Karlovy Vary plays an essential catch-up role, screening the best of the fests. Sundance is represented in the opening film -- Shana Feste's family drama "The Greatest," featuring Carey Mulligan as well as new titles from U.S. up-and-comers Scott Sanders ("Black Dynamite") and Cary Fukunaga ("Sin Nombre").

A good chunk of Cannes' Competition will make the trip including Lars von Trier's "Antichrist," Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces," Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" and Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winner "The White Ribbon." They are joined by this year's gold and silver Berlinale Bear winners: Claudia Llosa's "The Milk of Sorrow," Adrian Biniez's "Gigante" and Maren Ade's "Everyone Else."

A number of big names will also catch the flight to Karlovy Vary, including this year's Cannes jury president Isabelle Huppert, Spanish heartthrob Antonio Banderas, actor John Malkovich and director Paul Schrader. Just some of the movers and shakers looking to slow down and sit back for a week of pure cinema at Eastern Europe's premiere film event.

Lineups for the festival, which runs July 3-11, follow:

Opening film (out of competition)
"The Greatest," Shana Feste, U.S.

Competition
"Angel at Sea," Frederic Dumont, Belgium/Canada
"Applause," Martin Pieter Zandvliet, Denmark
"Black Sheep," Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz, Mexico
"Cold Souls," Sophie Barthes, U.S.
"Freedom," Davide Ferrario, Italy
"Himalaya, Where the Wind Dwells," Jeon Soo-il, South Korea
"I am Not Your Friend," Gyorgy Palfi, Hungary
"Piggies," Robert Glinski, Poland/Germany
"Soul at Peace," Vladimir Balko, Slovak Republic
"Twenty," Abdolreza Kahani, Iran
"Villa Amalia," Benoit Jacquot, France/Switzerland
"Whisky with Vodka," Andreas Dresen, Germany
"Will Not Stop There," Vinko Bresan, Croatia/Serbia
"Wolfy," Vassily Sigarev, Russia

Closing film (out of competition)
"The Boat that Rocked," Richard Curtis, U.K.
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