Karlovy Vary minding the East-West gap

Keeps its focus on Central and Eastern Europe

MOSCOW -- The Czech Republic's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is a fest on a mission. Situated on the border of Eastern and Western Europe, the festival, which runs July 4-12, hopes to bridge the cultural gap by shining its spotlight on the films of the former Soviet Bloc nations.

"We declared our focus on films from Central and Eastern Europe several years ago and we endeavor to present the best and most comprehensive works (from the region)," festival executive director Krystof Mucha said recently.

It's a goal made all the more important by what organizers see as a dearth of films from the region at Europe's more established fests.

"Until recently, it was true to say that the largest festivals, such as Cannes, neglected films from Central and Eastern Europe," artistic director Eva Zaoralova explains, adding that, although the situation has begun to change for the better -- noting last year's Palme d'Or win for Romania's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," there is still a long way to go before movies from Eastern and Central Europe are fairly represented.

"It's important to pay special attention in Karlovy Vary to films from this part of the world," Zaoralova said, adding that finding films in former Socialist countries and republics can sometimes be a difficult task.

Despite the scrum for available titles, organizers don't consider Karlovy Vary to be in a bidding war with its biggest Eastern European neighbor, the Moscow International Film Festival.

"There isn't much of a sense of competition with the festival in Moscow," Mucha said. "Of course there are films which we would like, which Moscow also has its eye on, (but) it depends on the producers where a film eventually ends up."

This year, the Czech Republic has a pair of films in the Karlovy official competition: Petr Zelenka's Karamazovi, an update on Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov," and Michaela Pavlatova's contemporary Prague love story "Night Owls."

Other Eastern European titles in the official selection include Croatian Zrinko Ogresta's "Behind the Glass" and Russian director Alexey Uchitel's Caucacus-set war drama "Captive."