Karlovy Vary minds the East-West gap


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 a 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.

It's a goal made all the more important by what organizers see as a dearth of films from the region at other 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 said, adding that, though 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.

"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 can sometimes be a difficult task.

Despite the scrum for available titles, organizers don't consider Karlovy to be at odds with its Eastern European neighbor, the Mos-cow International Film Festival.

"Of course there are films that we would like that Moscow also has its eye on," Mucha said, "(but) it depends on the producers where a film eventually ends up."

This year, the Czech Republic has a pair of films in Karlovy's official competition: Petr Zelenka's Dostoevsky update "Karamazovi" 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." (partialdiff)