Karlovy Vary is known as a relaxed setting, ideal for renewing contacts. A little business was done in the pine-fringed Czech spa town during the festival (July 4-12), four films picked up local distribution, and the Eastern European line-up went down well with enthusiastic audiences, many of whom were backpacking students from Prague and other Czech towns, curious to enjoy a rare view of international and independent films.

The exposure will provide a huge boost to the handful of films which secured Czech distribution at the festival.

Audience award

Prague-based Hollywood Classic Entertainment picked up Nikita Mikhalkov's festival favourite 12, which won the audience award. Buzz about the film's foreign-language Oscar nomination earlier in the year had helped to draw festival audiences. The film looks at contemporary Russian society and includes harrowing glimpses of the war in Chechnya.

Mikhalkov has transplanted Sidney Lumet's classic 12 Angry Men to post-Communist Russia. An all-male jury is called on to decide whether a Chechen boy is guilty of murdering his adopted father, but their initial certainty starts to fade as they deliberate.

Breakout film

Festival programmers looking for new films from Eastern Europe to screen at their festivals later this year found a likely champion in The Karamazovs, making its world premiere at the festival.

Petr Zelenka's adaptation of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, set in a Polish steel factory, took the Fipresci award. However, audiences are likely to struggle with the same overt staginess and thick dialogue that stymied some critics at Karlovy Vary. The film was nonetheless lauded for its ambitious approach to a powerful, classic story.

Breakout talent

Because talented actresses Ana Geislerova and Tatiana Vilhelmova (and proven commodities) are seen in film after film, local audiences were especially welcoming to new local actress Martha Issova.

In Michaela Pavlatova's Night Owls, Issova plays a young convenience store clerk who is unable to move fully into adulthood. The role earned her the best actress award.

Issova's winning smile and upbeat personality - not to mention a gracious acceptance speech - charmed international festival-goers. The 27-year-old played a supporting role last year in Alice Nellis' Little Girl Blue and next year will appear in Marie Polednakova's comedy Libas Jako Buh.