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Karlovy Vary’s 39th Festival Continues with Strong Competition, Controversial “Czech Dream”

Karlovy Vary's 39th Festival Continues with Strong Competition, Controversial "Czech Dream"

Karlovy Vary’s 39th Festival Continues with Strong Competition, Controversial “Czech Dream”

by Wendy Mitchell

In this scene from “Cesky Sen” (Czech Dream), Czechs looking for a bargain at a heavily advertised new supermarket found only a fake storefront in this meadow. Photo courtesy of the filmmakers.

The budget for this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (which opened July 2 and runs through tomorrow) may be the event’s lowest in a decade, but you wouldn’t know it from the way the festival is running. Most festival-goers agree that this year’s festival (the 39th edition) has some of the strongest programming in recent years, and also some major stars have turned up in this sleepy Czech Republic spa town. Making the scene so far have been notables such as Jacqueline Bisset, Harvey Keitel, Elijah Wood and Liev Schrieber (who only had to make the two-hour trek from Prague, where they are filming “Everything is Illuminated”), John Cleese, Ben Gazzara, Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf, doc legend Albert Maysles, and many others.

As usual, the town is beseiged by members of the European film industry, myriad festival programmers from across the globe, as well as swarms of Eastern European backpackers who stand patiently in long lines hoping to get empty seats at the dozens of daily screenings. As of Tuesday at midnight, the festival had sold more than 107,000 tickets. One film that seems to be a hit with industry folks and backpackers alike is “Cesky Sen” (Czech Dream), a documentary by two Prague Film Academy students who engineered an elaborate marketing stunt to make a point about consumerism in post-Communist Czech Republic. The two students, Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda, recruited a top advertising firm to help them market the grand opening of a new “hypermarket” (supermarket), touting impossibly low prices, but when thousands of gullible Czechs showed up to the “grand opening,” all they found was a fake canvas storefront in a meadow. The film chronicles the planning of the ruse, the results, and storm of anger that ensued (part of the anger stems from the fact that the filmmakers paid for the stunt with a grant from the Czech government, so essentially the public’s own tax dollars were used to fool them).

The narrative competition features that are causing the most buzz include Valery Todorovsky‘s “My Step-Brother Frankenstein” from Russia, Marek Najbrt‘s “Mistri” (Champions) from the Czech Republic, Dennis Gansel‘s “Napola” from Germany, and Zrinko Ogresta‘s “Tady” (Here), which is a co-production from Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.

Among the U.S. industry folks in attendance at some point this week are Peter Scarlet from the Tribeca Film Festival, Gary Hustwit from Plexifilm, Al Ruban from Faces Distribution, Todd Nickels from Miramax, “Dandelion” director Mark Milgard, “Z Channel” director Xan Cassavetes, and dozens of other distributors, critics, and festival programmers.

[Next week, indieWIRE will publish a full report from Wendy Mitchell in Karlovy Vary.]

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