The Festival president talks about the event’s role in discovering and promoting international film-making talent

As an 18-year veteran of the festival, how do you measure its success each year?

Above all it is about viewer interest. For several years now, attendance has remained at roughly the same level for one simple reason: the capacity of festival theatres and the capacity of the town of Karlovy Vary. The festival and the town don’t have room for more viewers and visitors. So the festival has opted to increase audience comfort and improve the quality of screenings. This year we are re-opening the outdoor theatre. As it’s dependent on the weather, it’s not an entirely adequate festival theatre but we can use it to offer special treats, such as night-time screenings of the opening film.

We also pay very careful attention to feedback in the local and foreign press. It’s very important to us if the films screened at the festival and given awards here make it in the world at large. That’s how we ‘discovered’ Amélie [in 2001]. And Nowhere In Africa, awarded here at the festival [in 2002], went on to win an Academy Award. At practically every year’s festival, a film goes on to collect prizes at other festivals after being recognised [for the first time] in the Karlovy Vary competition.

For a number of years, the Karlovy Vary festival has been a place where various film-making talents launch their careers, and we help introduce them to the international public. Numerous actors have been guests at Karlovy Vary and then immediately became stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Scarlett Johansson, Keira Knightley, Ellen Page. We were the first festival to organise a retrospective of the fantastic Korean director Kim Ki-duk, and this year our gala opening film is Jane Eyre, the latest from Cary Fukunaga who we introduced two years ago as one of the most promising young directors.

We’re also interested in the opinions of foreign film-makers and people from the film business who come here not only for the possibility of contacting people face-to-face, but also to see, above all, the cinematic output from Eastern Europe, which isn’t available in such a comprehensive way at any other festival.

How difficult is it to secure films in a crowded festival calendar?

Considering we try to screen the films presented in the main festival competition as world premieres, it’s naturally quite difficult. But at the same time the number of films offered for the Karlovy Vary competition increases every year. As regards the festival programme in general, on the basis of past years’ experience, the number of films screened has essentially stabilised. Rather than further increasing it, we’ve opted for multiple screenings of films so visitors who come for just part of the festival will have a wider selection.

Which festival achievements have given you the most satisfaction over the years?

We’re very proud of films such as Amélie and Nowhere In Africa. And we’re also very pleased when the festival succeeds in attracting outstanding film personalities, such as Robert Redford who was a guest at the 40th KVIFF, to accept our highest award, the Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema. Considering Redford almost never participates in other festivals besides his own, Sundance, his visit was truly a special event.

Several years ago we introduced a new tradition. We asked top personalities of world film who had been our guests if they would shoot a trailer for the Karlovy Vary festival. We have gradually succeeded in creating a unique collection of mini-films starring, among others, Harvey Keitel, Danny DeVito, Milos Forman, Andy Garcia, John Malkovich, and the newest, Jude Law. Their willingness to join forces in this way with the Karlovy Vary festival shows us they have fond memories of their stay at the festival.

Jiri Bartoska

Bartoska is a celebrated Czech actor with more than 50 films to his credit, including most recently Vaclav Havel’sLeaving.

He became president of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 1994 and, with artistic director Eva Zaoralova, restored the festival’s international reputation.

He produced Vladimir Michalek’s 2002 Toronto title, Autumn Spring, and Matej Minac’s 2000 Palm Springs title, All My Loved Ones.