By Indiewire | Indiewire July 10, 2003 at 2:00AM
Midway Through Karlovy Vary, Crowds Cheer Norway's "Buddy"
by Wendy Mitchell
The quiet spa town of Karlovy Vary has once again been overrun by visiting film fanatics, here for the 38th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The event kicked off on July 4 (complete with fireworks for homesick Americans, perhaps) with a screening of Czech film "Pupendo," the story of a Prague sculptor and his conflicts and compromises with the communist party in the early-1980s. The film has already proven itself as a domestic hit, and it seemed to translate well with this first showing for an international crowd.
Also at the opening ceremony, British director Stephen Frears was on hand to present his latest, "Dirty Pretty Things," and also to receive one of Karlovy Vary's awards. Czech director Jiri Menzel accepted an award as well, before changing into a T-shirt that read "Very Boring" at the opening night party. Menzel has caused a stir here before, getting into fisticuffs years ago, and being banned from the fest at one point.
The packed crowds here have been enjoying mostly sunny days and cool nights (a seemingly endless supply of local elixirs Becherovka and Pilsner Urquell keep folks satiated as they stroll from film to film or party to party). U.S. directors in town include Gus Van Sant with "Elephant," Dylan Kidd with "Roger Dodger," and Wayne Kramer with "The Cooler," the latter being the only American film in competition here.
The festival continues through Saturday, but as of press time some early favorites here had emerged already. The current front-runner for the audience prize appears to be Morten Tyldum's "Buddy," a Norwegian film that received a lengthy standing ovation after its Monday world premiere. (Ballot boxes were also overflowing with audience comments after this one, and an extra screening was added for later in the festival). "Buddy" follows a group of twentysomething slackers who find sudden fame when their home videos become a reality TV hit. The film is a crowd-pleaser in the best sense of the phrase; this is a real charmer that has even impressed many critics despite its commercial leanings. And of course the ever-present backpackers here in Karlovy Vary seemed to love it.
Among documentaries, the buzz film here so far has been Ulrich Seidl's "Jesus, You Know," an Austrian doc that examines worshippers' personal connections with God. Cineastes have also been praising the artsier "The Key to Determining Dwarfs or The Last Travel of Lemuel Gulliver," a "film essay" based on the diaries of Czech writer and director Pavel Juracek.
Also popular here have been "Dead Man's Memories" (Austria-Germany), "Fear and Trembling" (France), "Babusya" (Russia), "Small Town" (a local work that has definitely divided the Czech crowd), and "Facing Window" (Italy). Notable screenings to come include Van Sant's Cannes winner "Elephant" and Lars Von Trier's "Dogville."
[indieWIRE's Wendy Mitchell will publish a wrap-up following the conclusion of the festival.]