FESTIVALS: Plzen deals with travel crisis

Written by Cathy Meils in Plzen

Feature competition juror Alissa Simon was one of the guests stranded en route to the Finale (datakal.filmfestfinale.cz ) fest of Czech films in Plzen, but organizers were taking the volcano-induced crisis in stride.

"Fortunately many of our guests are not coming by air," international guest coordinator Eva Safrankova told FNE. Those who made it for the festival's opening were given the royal treatment. "We weren't expecting the attention," said Marcel Maiga, making his annual trek on behalf of the Cottbus festival (filmfestivalcottbus.de ), which focuses on film from CEE.

Even some Czechs were prevented from attending the festival. The team from competition film Men in Rut were ironically stranded in the US, and missed their Plzen festival premiere. Director Mira Fornay, trapped in Lisbon, sent greetings via a letter for the competion screening of her film Foxes.

Delayed arrivals affected some of the expected guests, including those arriving from the IFF Istanbul (www.iksv.org) . Others had to cancel altogether, including Sergei Lavrentiev who had planned to travel from Moscow for IFF Zerkalo, and Peter Hames from the London film festival.

"It's a problem for the Czech film industry," festival director Ivan Jachym told FNE. "I don't know where people can watch these movies." A number of people had to change their travel arrangements and were expected to arrive on Thursday, in time to catch the presentation of new Czech films in production presented by the Czech Film Center (www.filmcenter.cz ). Still Jachym was looking on the bright side. Along with Czech Lion winner Protector by Marek Najbrt and Jan Hrebejk's Berlin screened Kawasaki's Rose, audiences were showing keen interest in a third main competition film, Walking Too Fast from Radim Spacek.

"And I'm glad we can be in this building," Jachym added, with a nod to the elegant Mestanska Beseda where the festival headquarters and screening halls are housed.