The Czech-based Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has just announced its 50th lineup, which includes new films by Dietrich Bruggemann (“Stations of the Cross”) and Romanian filmmakers Anca Damian (“A Very Unsettled Summer”) and Florin Serban (“If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle”), as well as the feature debut rising Italian director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino. The festival will also present the youngest competition lineup in KVIFF’s recent history; the average age of filmmakers in the main festival section is 39-years-old.
American highlights include “Bob and the Trees,” by Massachusetts-based filmmaker Diego Ongaro, and Sean Baker’s Sundance sensation “Tangerine”, which will get its European premiere at the festival.
Read on for the full line up, with synopses courtesy of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Official Selection Competition
Director: Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Italy, Greece, 2015, 96 min, World premiere
Distinguished Italian poet Antonia Pozzi (1912–1938) was among those women who were at odds with the times in which they lived. Her poems record her inability to adapt to social norms and her desire to live fully, and in poetry she sought an escape from reality and from her own complex soul and emotional life. An exceptional debut from a talented Italian filmmaker whose short work has been awarded at the festivals in Locarno and Sundance.
Director: Visar Morina
Germany, Kosovo, Macedonia, France, 2015, 104 min, International premiere
The story of ten-year-old Nori plays out in Kosovo, Germany, and on the road between the two countries. His father Gezim dominates his entire world, however, one day he leaves for work in the “West” and Nori won’t be placated concerning his sudden disappearance. This feature debut from a talented Kosovan filmmaker is rendered with exceptional intensity and a flair for portraying the emotional complexities of the child’s situation.
“Bob and the Trees”
Director: Diego Ongaro
USA, 2015, 91 min, International premiere
Massachusetts logger Bob Tarasuk, a charismatic workhorse and hard-head with a soft spot for golf and gangsta rap, plays himself in this vérite-style drama – an unpretentiously intense character study of an individual surrounded by a landscape both majestic and inscrutable.
Director: Florin Şerban
France, Germany, Romania, 2015, 96 min, World premiere
The story of this keenly anticipated film by acclaimed Romanian director Florin Șerban (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, Berlinale 2010) follows a talented 19-year-old boxer named Anghel, for whom a session in the ring is everything, and Cristina, an attractive, 30-something mother who finds herself at a critical moment in her life. Two characters with their own secrets, two journeys, two outlooks. An intense drama that penetrates to the core.
“The Sound of Trees”
Director: François Péloquin
Canada, 2015, 79 min, World premiere
At 17 Jérémie dreams of a life different from the one that awaits him at the family sawmill in the small Canadian town where he lives. Jérémie is more interested in pimping his car, listening to hip hop, and slacking off with his friends. This impressionistic debut, built upon convincing performances, tells of a summer that completely changed a teenager’s life.
“The Red Spider”
Director: Marcin Koszałka
Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, 2015, 95 min, World premiere
The feature debut by a leading Polish documentarist and cameraman was inspired by actual mass murders committed in the 1960s. A precisely constructed psychological thriller, the film delves into an intricate story of the fascination with evil that hides in places we would never expect.
Director: Slávek Horák
Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, 2015, 92 min, World premiere
Everyone knows about the finality of human existence but the realization of life’s actual limits comes to each of us individually and often unexpectedly. Dedicated home care nurse Vlasta (Alena Mihulová) lives for her husband Láďa (Bolek Polívka), her daughter, and her patients. But then one day things change and Vlasta is forced to react. This mature debut portrays deadly serious issues with a gentle humor.
Director: Daniel Dencik
Denmark, 2015, 100 min, International premiere
Young anti-colonial idealist Wullf Joseph Wullf sets out for Danish Guinea to set up a coffee plantation but not everything goes according to plan. This bold contribution to the historical film genre casts light on a dark chapter of European history, employing the music of Angelo Badalamenti to help shift the experience into a dreamlike trip that partakes in equal measure of lyric poetry and a horrifying nightmare.
Director: Dietrich Brüggemann
Germany, 2015, 103 min, International premiere
Renowned German filmmaker Dietrich Brüggemann (Stations of the Cross) has come out with a radical satirical comedy where, in the carefree spirit of punk, he pitches into the neo-Nazis, the media, police, and the European Union. The acrid commentary on the state of contemporary German society fed to the viewer at an impressive tempo can easily be applied to the countries bordering the director’s homeland.
“Those Who Fall Have Wings”
Director: Peter Brunner
Austria, 2015, 92 min, World premiere
In the face of death, time seems to stop for those left behind. What can they do to start the clock ticking again? This inward-looking, artistically striking, and exceptionally strong drama from one of Austria’s greatest talents presents its protagonists in moments of sorrow and the occasional joy, but always as fragile, vulnerable people.
“The Snake Brothers”
Director: Jan Prušinovský
Czech Republic, 2015, 111 min, International premiere
This uncompromising drama tells the story of two brothers, who answer to the nicknames Viper and Cobra, each dealing in his own way with the bleakness, lack of funds, and the alcohol-filled evenings repeated ad nauseam in their small Central Bohemian town. Brothers Matěj and Kryštof Hádek excel in one of the must-see domestic films of the year.
“The Magic Mountain”
Director: Anca Damian
Romania, France, Poland, 2015, 95 min, International premiere
The Magic Mountain investigates the adventures of mountain climber and photographer Adam J. Winkler, who fought in Afghanistan with the mujahedin against the Soviets in the 1980s. The director employs a highly original artistic technique involving animated collage of period materials.
“Song of Songs”
Director: Eva Neymann
Ukraine, 2015, 75 min, World premiere
The acclaimed work by renowned Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem served as inspiration for the Ukrainian filmmaker, whose third picture offers a markedly stylized vision of the lost world of the Jewish shtetl at the beginning of the 20th century. Poetic scenes created using truly magical images are loosely connected via the motif of childhood love, while the film’s imaginative form is imbued with nostalgia.
East of the West Competition
“The Wednesday Child”
Director: Lili Horváth
Hungary, Germany, 2015, 94 min, World premiere
History sometimes repeats itself. As a nine-year-old, Maja was abandoned by her mother and placed in an orphanage. Now it’s ten years later and she keeps returning to the institution, now to visit her four-year-old son. Will she be able to take control of her life despite the unfavorable circumstances and her own self-destructive tendencies?
“Journey to Rome”
Director: Tomasz Mielnik
Czech Republic, Poland, 2015, 100 min, World premiere
There are as many stories in the world as there are people, and Vašek, a timid guard at a gallery who becomes a reluctant painting thief, hears plenty of them on his train trip to Rome. This multilevel comedy road movie (on a train) and quest for the meaning of life is director Tomasz Mielnik’s feature debut.
Director: Bartek Prokopowicz
Poland, 2015, 105 min, World premiere
After a nontraditional romance blossoms between Benek and Lena, a young couple immersed in questions of life and death, they decide to defy the natural order by having a baby. A mournful yet lightly-rendered tale about the search for identity, finding love, and the battle against a fatal illness that is nearly impossible to win.
Director: Bujar Alimani
Albania, 2015, 78 min, World premiere
While a mute and lonely mother lives a life that is far from easy, she nevertheless bares her lot with dignity and courage. Her 15-year-old son is trying to stand on his own two feet, but in so doing he only complicates the grim situation in the family. This sensitive coming-of-age picture is the second feature from Albanian director Bujar Alimani.
“The World Is Mine”
Director: Nicolae Constantin Tanase
Romania, 2015, 104 min, International premiere
Sixteen-year-old Larisa lives in a small coastal town in a social environment where image and money afford power over others. With courage and a dogged determination that commands and intimidates, Larisa attempts to attain just such a “dream.” Talented Romanian first-timer Nicolae Tanase captures the most intense period of a person’s life with skill and disarming authenticity.
“No Matter How Hard We Tried”
Director: Grzegorz Jarzyna
Poland, 2014, 70 min, International premiere
The Mother, the Daughter, the Grandmother, and other archetypal characters gradually come together in a room where they talk incessantly. Their monologues rarely cross over into dialogue but taken together they create an absurdly humorous and satirical look at contemporary Poland, which in their opinion isn’t (and perhaps never was) a nice place to live. The movie is an adaptation of Dorota Masłowska’s successful theater play.
“Dust of the Ground”
Director: Vít Zapletal
Czech Republic, 2014, 95 min, World premiere
Two brothers, the elder married, the younger with a lover and a young child meet up at their parents’ country place after the father has a stroke. A subtle family drama from debut director Vít Zapletal that distinguishes itself from the usual Czech production through its unaffected accent on the Christian faith.
Director: Tolga Karaçelik
Turkey, 2015, 104 min, European premiere
A cargo ship suddenly anchors out at sea. It is prohibited from entering the port, so the crew is left to wait things out in a claustrophobic environment with dwindling food supplies. A Turkish psychological thriller on what becomes of the principles of power, authority and hierarchy the moment the traditional social order breaks down.
Director: Mirlan Abdykalykov
Kirghizia, 2015, 81 min, World premiere
There are still places in the world where people live in harmony with nature and the mythology which comes out of it. A family of nomads dwelling high in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan find contentment without the conquests of modern civilization. This poetic sketch about traditions that are slowly disappearing was based on a screenplay by renowned director Aktan Arym Kubat.
Director: Alexis Alexiou
Greece, Germany, 2015, 116 min, European premiere
Thanks to the efforts of owner Stelios, musicians love his small jazz club in the heart of Athens and the place seems to be prospering. But an early demise threatens this island of quality music, and Stelios has a mere 32 hours to save his beloved nightclub – and himself. The movie’s tough generic shell (crime thriller) masks a bitter treatise on the Greek economic crisis.
“You Carry Me”
Director: Ivona Juka
Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, 2015, 155 min, World premiere
Ives, Nataša, Vedran, and his wife. Four people, four different destinies that cross during the filming of a soap opera entitled “Prisoners of Happiness.” Ivona Juka’s feature debut offers a colorful portrait of four strong personalities whose desire for satisfaction bumps up against seemingly insurmountable day-to-day problems.
Director: Gyula Nemes
Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, 2015, 83 min, World premiere
It’s 2017. Bees are dying out and, in the words of Albert Einstein; humanity has only four more years left. Young radical ecologists set out to wage a ruthless battle for their survival. A formally inventive and thoroughly nonconformist vision of the fight against globalization.
Forum of Independents Competition
Director: Ives Rosenfeld
Brazil, 2015, 75 min, World premiere
This debut by a talented Brazilian filmmaker offers a sensitive rendering and sincere initiation study of a lonely hero (still almost a boy with the nickname Junior) whose dream of becoming the star of an elite football team is jeopardized under the weight of circumstances.
Director: Jan Těšitel
Czech Republic, 2015, 78 min, World premiere
At age 20, David is increasingly aware of how his mental illness influences his parents’ behavior. So one evening he decides to run away to Prague where, alone, he has to face numerous tricky situations – as well as his own thoughts. This courageous and moody debut is crowned with a fine lead performance from Patrik Holubář.
Director: Sonia Boileau Bonspille
Canada, 2015, 77 min, World premiere
One night Lydia is attacked as she’s preparing to close her father’s store, and in the next few hours she is forced to make a number of life-altering decisions. In her powerful psychological drama, the director demonstrates her sensitivity in depicting the world of the Inuit community as well as the inner emotions of the young protagonist.
Director: Anders Hazelius
Sweden, 2015, 74 min, International premiere
Young Adam has lost his girlfriend and mother of his child, but he’d like to win her back. In order to banish his feelings of emptiness, he agrees to help with a controversial project. A love story set in Stockholm during the filming of a feminist movie.
Director: Hugo Bousquet
Belgium, 2015, 72 min, World premiere
A desolate mountainous region, a young couple exhausted from a long journey, an abandoned house discovered by chance, and finally the arrival of a mysterious stranger speaking an unfamiliar language – the director defly employs these ingredients to create suspense in a psychological drama compressed by time and space.
Director: Tali Shalom-Ezer Israel, 2014, 92 min, European premiere
Puberty is giving 12-year-old Adar a rough ride. A fascinating chamber piece in which debuting Tali Shalom-Ezer deftly transforms a playful dream into a provocative, even devastating nightmare.
“Shadow Behind the Moon”
Director: Jun Robles Lana
Philippines, 2015, 115 min, World premiere
The armed conflict between the Philippine military and the communist resistance at the beginning of the 1990s forms the backdrop to this study of three individuals who, for different reasons, are trying to resolve an untenable situation. The film makes sophisticated use of the narration to encourage contemplation of the dignity, morality, and also the manipulation of people trapped in tough circumstances.
“The Ark in the Mirage”
Director: Yasutomo Chikuma
Japan, 2015, 99 min, World premiere
A gang of young hoodlums preys on vulnerable elderly people, isolating them in undignified circumstances and stealing the bulk of their retirement money. But after the arrival of a new mark, played by renowned Japanese dancer Min Tanaka, one of the thugs begins to question his conscience and sets out to explore his past and discover who he really is.
Director: Sean Baker
USA, 2014, 88 min, European premiere
Sin-Dee is back and she’s mad as hell. During the month she was gone (read: in prison) she found out her boyfriend was stepping out on her – and with a “normal” girl to boot. And Sin-Dee, a girl with a capital G (and with something that hints at her past life as a man), isn’t about to put up with that. Violence, love, and friendship – all this in a comedy shot on an iPhone 5.
Director: Paz Fábrega
Costa Rica, 2015, 71 min, European premiere
San Jose, Costa Rica, the present. Pedro (30) and Luciana (29) meet at a party. Although there’s no fatal attraction, there’s a hint that something is happening between them. What follows is an impulsive decision to travel together to the base of the Rincon de la vieja volcano in the northwest of the country. Forget about past traumas, this unassuming romance focuses on the importance and singularity of the here and now.
Director: Dodo Dayao
Philippines, 2014, 101 min, European premiere
A typhoon is slowly approaching Manila. And in the swelter that accompanies the storm something ominous is hiding which awakens suicidal tendencies and other inexplicable urges in the city’s inhabitants. This surprisingly self-assured and mature directorial debut is a sophisticated portrait of a society into which evil has come a-creeping.
Director: Helen Walsh
United Kingdom, 2015, 96 min, International premiere
The protagonists of this visually commanding picture are two girls who come from different social backgrounds. Shelly, who lives alone with her brothers and financially carefree Rachel are connected via emotional alienation. Their mutual encounter proves to be a milestone in their lives – with one emerging reborn, the other scarred.
Documentary Films Competition
Director: Noura Kevorkian
Canada, 2015, 90 min, World premiere
Suffering from an advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease, Barkev Kevorkian spends his time recalling the past when he worked at a foundry, loved fast drive, and enjoyed time with his little girl. In this courageous documentary essay, the Lebanese-born director contemplates all the things a serious illness takes from your life.
Director: Jan Foukal
Czech Republic, 2015, 67 min, World premiere
A nontraditional documentary road movie or a staged pseudo-documentary meditation? However we perceive this story of a couple wandering through the Czech countryside, we can best experience it by yielding to the calm tempo of their journey through the shady woods. Amerika isn’t a portrait of specific individuals but rather a probe into the Czech phenomenon of “tramping”.
“Cats in Riga”
Director: Jon Bang Carlsen
Latvia, 2014, 17 min
While the news media sift through current affairs and the inhabitants of Riga focus on their daily cares, cats are completely occupied by their aimless wanderings through stairways, offices, and apartments, sublimely indifferent to the preposterous hustle and bustle of our civilization. This ingenious and playful para-documentary investigates the role of subjectivity in the perception of the world around us.
Director: Alba Sotorra
Spain, Germany, 2015, 78 min, International premiere
Djalal has loved weapons since before he could walk. But success in the virtual world, where thousands of followers watch his videos, is not enough – so he heads to Afghanistan as a sniper. Unfortunately, actual war is a dull business that drags on endlessly. Will the young man, who is still searching for his place in the real world, realize that the game is over and that it’s time to grow up?
Director: Eileen Hofer
Switzerland, 2015, 67 min, International premiere
A dance school in Havana. Ballet means everything to adolescent Amanda, experienced Viengsay, and renowned local legend Alicia Alonso. The contours of the characters intermingle as three portraits flow into one: a single female destiny presented in three forms. A documentary of commitment and passion for ballet that become a metaphor for the lack of freedom suffered by the inhabitants of the island nation.
“I Am Belfast”
Director: Mark Cousins
Ireland, United Kingdom, 2015, 84 min, International premiere
“I met a woman. She said that she is Belfast, the city in Northern Ireland where I grew up. The woman said that she’s as old as the city,” states Mark Cousins at the beginning of his meditative dialogue with the personification of Belfast. This cinematic essay abandons the parameters of classic documentary language, asking us to perceive the film as a magical-realist mix of reality, dreams, myths, and local storytelling.
Director: João Pedro Rodrigues, João Rui Guerra da Mata
Portugal, 2014, 30 min
Macao, the former Portuguese colony on Chinese soil, was known as a centre of fireworks production. The IEC Long factory, the last monument to the area’s industrial past, today lies in ruins. The half-hour documentary captures the eerie silence and starkness of a place that for decades belched out products guaranteed to provide explosive fun.
“Kacey Mottet Klein, Birth of an Actor”
Director: Ursula Meier
Switzerland, 2015, 14 min
How does a child become an actor? And how does the acting profession influence his or her relationship to the world? In Ursula Meier’s documentary teenage Kacey Mottet Klein answers these very questions. Following the road from the playground to the film set, the film presents a study of how mind and body mature before the camera lens.
Director: Helena Třeštíková
Czech Republic, 2015, 97 min, World premiere
Life hasn’t been easy on Mallory but after the birth of her son she tries desperately to kick her drug habit, and to stop living on the street. She wants to turn her back on her dark past and help those she knows best – people on the fringes of society. In her latest long-term documentary, Helena Třeštíková demonstrates that even seemingly hopeless lives needn’t be cut short halfway.
“Once Upon a Dream – A Journey to the Last Spaghetti Western”
Director: Tonislav Hristov
Germany, Finland, Bulgaria, 2015, 60 min, International premiere
It’s not so long since they shot one cult film after another in the Andalusian town of Tabernas. But the fame of the movie stars has since faded and the charm of the place evaporated in the face of the economic crisis. When word gets out about the production of a new blockbuster, the eyes of the local inhabitants shine with hope. A humorous documentary fairy tale about a life reminiscent of an endless Hollywood movie.
Director: Cosima Spender
United Kingdom, Italy, 2015, 90 min, European premiere
The oldest and most famous palio – a rough-and-tumble bareback horserace – takes place twice yearly in the heart of Siena. The race not only requires riding skills but also a healthy dose of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing. Who will come out on top – legendary jockey Gigi Bruschelli or his gifted former trainee Giovanni Atzeni? The answer lies in this gripping docudrama, in which emotion, movement, and gesture are pared down to their most crystalline form.
Director: Martin Hrubý
Czech Republic, 2014, 20 min
In the 1960s an architecturally unique resort built on the banks of Orlík reservoir became the secret getaway of the communist establishment, then later passed into the hands of notorious businessmen during the early days of unrestrained capitalism. Suffused with an air of mystery, this portrait captures the genius loci and turbulent history of a hidden summer paradise that was left off every map.
“The Father Tapes”
Director: Albert Meisl
Austria, 2015, 78 min, International premiere
When Albert Meisl began to suspect that his father was writing the final chapter of his life, he decided to visit his parents with a movie camera in tow. This harrowing documentary deliberately suppresses any estheticization of the hopeless situation, thereby placing us in the role of disinterested observers of their sorrowful parting.
Director: Roberto Collío
Chile, 2014, 17 min
Using a variety of formats and animation techniques, a story unfolds before our eyes of a Chilean military company trapped in the snow during a cruel Andean storm. Yet the film doesn’t aim to provide a faithful reconstruction of events but rather to investigate the boundless solitude and blistering cold that bores down to the bone when a person stands on the threshold of white death.
“Women in Sink”
Director: Iris Zaki
United Kingdom, Israel, 2015, 30 min
It’s packed at Fifi’s beauty salon in Haifa. As is normal in such a place, the women are quick to enter into conversation. The young director takes advantage of the situation, allowing her customers to air their opinions on the coexistence of Arabs and Jews as she washes their hair, while also offering a more general look at politics, history, love, and life.
“The Living Fire”
Director: Ostap Kostyuk
Ukraine, 2014, 77 min, European premiere
The snow is starting to melt and spring has announced its arrival. Three Carpathian herdsmen, just like their fathers and grandfathers before them, set off with their livestock into the mountains on a lonely journey lasting several months. A nostalgic, mystery-tinged essay about an ancient profession that unbridled civilization may soon swallow up.