As artistic director of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Karel Och has the ultimate say over the programming of the region’s biggest event of its kind. Just ahead of the 52nd edition – which gets underway on Friday – I put a number of questions to Och. The first: Are there any programme sections that he feels merit special attention?
“Besides inviting everyone to watch all three competition sections, because I think we have succeeded in bringing loads of interesting new films, I have to please all the cinephiles, the cinema buffs, by mentioning the section which started two years ago called Close Encounters.
“That section is basically the favourite films of our friends. Two years ago we invited foreign filmmakers, last year it was Czech filmmakers and this year it’s dedicated to foreign journalists.
“We have representatives from Variety, Screen International, Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, people who have been coming to Karlovy Vary for a long time, and they are bringing the films of their heart.
“These include The Searchers by John Ford, The Blue Lagoon, The Spirit of the Beehive by Victor Erice and several others.
The big stars this year are Uma Thurman, Jeremy Renner, Casey Affleck and Ken Loach. Of the less well-known filmmakers that are coming, who are you particularly excited about?
“I have to slightly correct you: it’s not only Ken Loach, but Ken Loach and Paul Laverty. That’s something we really care to stress, because we are honouring a creative duo, director and scriptwriter.
“But yes, you mentioned the most important ones.
“All films in competition have an interesting representative – at least the filmmaker or actors.
“I have to mention Mark Cousins, who next to Sergei Loznitsa, is our most faithful friend. Both are coming back to Karlovy Vary with their new films.
“I wouldn’t be such a lover of Italian cinema if I didn’t mention Jasmine Trinca, one of the most famous and most respected Italian actresses today.
“She received from the jury of the Un Certain Regard in Cannes the award for the best acting for the film Fortunata by Sergio Castellitto and she’s bringing this film to Karlovy Vary and will introduce it to our audience in person.”
Are there any particularly striking or otherwise interesting films that people should really make a special effort to get tickets for?
“Probably the film of the year for me is A Ghost Story, which we announced together with the visit of Casey Affleck.
“It’s a new film by David Lowery, who came to Karlovy Vary a few years ago with his film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.
“Together with his writing and production partners, Toby Halbrooks and James Johnston, and Casey Affleck, David will introduce A Ghost Story.
“It’s a one of its kind, beautiful film poem, a very visually striking and contemplative film about love and loss and ghosts, etc. It’s a beautiful film.”
You were recently on the Un Certain Regard jury in Cannes alongside Uma Thurman, and I’m sure you’ve been to the festival many times. Is there any way in which you’d like to see Karlovy Vary become like Cannes, or more like Cannes?
“Well, I think one of the things that people respect and appreciate about Karlovy Vary is that we don’t really look right or left, we just go our way and try to do our job as well as possible.
“It doesn’t mean that I don’t admire and appreciate many things about Cannes, and this year’s experience on the jury was unique in that I really succeeded in having a chance to see the way the festival is being prepared.
“And I was happy to see the same level of enthusiasm and commitment by the staff. It’s just on a bigger scale, but of course the core and the heart is the same.
“It was just an extraordinary experience.”