Following the sudden cancellation of shooting on Boswell For The Defense, as revealed in Screen Daily yesterday (July 4), both Sir Michael Caine and the film's director Bruce Beresford, have decided not to attend the Karlovy Vary film festival. Caine, who was scheduled to receive an award for Outstanding Artist Contribution to World Cinema, told the festival: "What can I say' I'm just really tired".

Casting an unexpected shadow over the opening of the 36th edition of the Festival, today's launch event featured the premiere of Eva Gardos' An American Rhapsody, a film seen as a metaphor for the progress of the event.

Gardos, says her picture is a mother-daughter drama about a girl transplanted to the West after growing up in communist Hungary. "Karlovy Vary is a wonderful place for it to debut in Europe," said Gardos. The autobiographical film stars Natassja Kinski, who arrived in town yesterday for today's premiere.

Over the course of the next ten days the Bohemian town is expected to be graced with the presence of Bille August, Ben Kingsley, Jean-Marc Barr, Thora Birch, Emir Kusturica, Bigas Luna, Miranda Otto, Ivan Reitman and Vincent Perez.

The festival, which now considers itself as the leading light in Central and Eastern Europe (July 5-14) boasts a competition with a thematic mix of 17 films, including the Czech production Angel Exit, directed by Vladmir Michalek; Ghost World, the US-UK co-production directed by Terry Zwigoff; A Song For Martin about a couple's struggle with Alzheimer's disease, by Danish director Bille August; and Ted Demme's Blow, starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz.

Five of the films in competition make their world premieres at the festival, and 10 are international premieres. Poland's Krzysztof Zanussi chairs the main competition jury of nine film professionals from around the world.

This year's "Forum of Independents" a sidebar intended to introduce art-house films to local distributors and viewers, focuses on films from Argentina. Organisers Uhrik and Hana Cielova say there is a new generation of Argentine filmmakers working in a "micro-realist" style.

Other sections include a retrospective of New Korean Cinema and tributes to Spanish satirist Bigas Luna and Jean-Luc Godard. Ben Kingsley, along with Czech director Otakar Vavra, will both receive awards for Outstanding Artist Contributions to World Cinema.

Quentin Tarantino's mother, Connie Zastoupil is also reported to be in town. Having visited the Czech Republic earlier this year for Blade 2, she is now working with Prague Indies Production on a slate of pictures.