Karlovy Vary IFF chooses 15 films for East of the West competition

Written by FNE Staff

Once again, aficionados of East and Central European film will journey to the Cinema Lazne III at the Karlovy Vary film festival to catch up on some of the most interesting films made in the region in the past year. This year, beginning on July 5 and continuing through July 12, 15 films will compete in the East of the West section. The films represent 21 countries, with 6 international co-productions in the mix. From the Baltics to the Balkans, from the Czech Republic to Kazakhstan, East of the West opens the door on a cross-section of films from these vibrant film cultures.

Leading up to the festival, FNE will spotlight each of the 15 films being screened in the East of the West competition. The FNE correspondents will profile the films with a behind-the-scenes look at the production elements.

Following is a complete listing of East of the West competition films, with screening times:

Film screenings:
8D7 - 11.7., 19:30, Theatre Karlovy Vary
9L1 - 12.7., 10:30, Cinema Lazne III

Bahrtalo! (Good Luck!) | Bahrtalo! (Jo szerencset!)
Director: Robert Lakatos
Hungary, Austria, Germany, 2008, 80 min, IP

An original fiction documentary about a pair of Hungarian Borats on a trip across Europe. Lali, a moustached gypsy, and a bald gadzo named Lori come from Transylvania and are friends to the end. A film full of sheer Eastern European poetry effectively portraying the clash between the spontaneous East and the more reserved West.

Film screenings:
3D6 - 6.7., 17:00, Theatre Karlovy Vary
4L4 - 7.7., 19:30, Cinema Lazne III

Boogie | Boogie
Director: Radu Muntean
Romania, 2008, 103 min

A chance encounter between ambitious thirty-something Bogdan and two classmates from secondary school while on holiday by the Black Sea reflects differing attitudes towards life within a generation entering middle age. The unostentatious method of direction gives the impression that we are involved in the party, which winds up towards the morning with a poignant sense that nothing is the same anymore.

Film screenings:
7D7 - 10.7., 19:30, Theatre Karlovy Vary
8L2 - 11.7., 13:30, Cinema Lazne III

The Class | Tablo
Director: Gabor Dettre
Hungary, 2008, 120 min, IP

Karcsi, a Roma policeman, lives with Eva, a Swede. One day he is called to the scene of the murder of a wealthy trafficker named Schulter. He begins to investigate the crime and untangle a complex situation - one that he, himself, complicates even further. The Class is a dark, grotesque crime film, a bitter testimony of the cruelty of today's world, of racism and the attitude of majorities towards minorities.

Film screenings:
2D7 - 5.7., 19:30, Theatre Karlovy Vary
3L2 - 6.7., 13:30, Cinema Lazne III

The Collectress | Kolekcioniere
Director: Kristina Buozyte
Lithuania, 2008, 84 min, IP

The psychological story of a young physician who loses the ability to feel emotion after undergoing a traumatic experience. It is only thanks to video recordings of herself in extreme situations that she regains the capacity to feel suppressed sensations. And so she decides to try an experiment - one that cannot yield positive results alone.

Film screenings:
5D9 - 8.7., 22:00, Theatre Karlovy Vary
6L3 - 9.7., 16:30, Cinema Lazne III

The Hard-Hearted | Kremen
Director: Alexey Mizgirev
Russia, 2007, 82 min

Moscow - a city of hope and also excessive ruthlessness and brutal force. Anton experiences both when he arrives in the metropolis to be with the girl of his dreams. The simple young man seeks retaliation for the injustice against him by joining the ranks of the strong, powerful and inviolable - those protected by a police uniform.

Film screenings:
3D8 - 6.7., 21:30, Theatre Karlovy Vary
4L3 - 7.7., 16:30, Cinema Lazne III

The Hollow | Jar
Director: Marina Razbezhkina
Russia, 2007, 103 min, IP

This film is based on Yesenin's early fiction in which the poet interweaves his own problems with the dramas experienced by the intellectual Karev who, in a futile attempt to adapt to his native environment, unwittingly destroys the lives of those closest to him. The story is set in the superbly evocative atmosphere of a primitive remote village at the dawn of the 20th century.

Film screenings:
5D7 - 8.7., 19:30, Theatre Karlovy Vary
6L2 - 9.7., 13:30, Cinema Lazne III

I Was Here | Ma olin siin
Director: Rene Vilbre
Estonia, Finland, 2008, 89 min, WP

Seventeen-year-old Rass is growing up in an Estonian suburb. He has his own dreams for his life, and suddenly he seems very close to attaining them. Rass becomes a drug dealer... This social criticism about growing up, based on the successful novel by Sass Henn, is a documentary-style testament of one generation.

Film screenings:
7D6 - 10.7., 17:00, Theatre Karlovy Vary
8L4 - 11.7., 19:30, Cinema Lázně III

It's Hard to Be Nice | Tesko je biti fin
Director: Srdjan Vuletie
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, United Kingdom, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, 2007, 102 min

The story of a Sarajevan taxi driver who works with the local underworld and decides to break ties with his past. His resolution is made all the more difficult by life in the Bosnian metropolis of Sarajevo, a city that is also searching for itself. Starring Saša Petrovic, who won Best Actor at the national festival in Sarajevo.

Film screenings:
8D9 - 11.7., 22:00, Theatre Karlovy Vary
9L2 - 12.7., 13:30, Cinema Lazne III

Mao Tse-tung | Mao Ce Dun
Director: Besnik Bisha
Albania, 2007, 91 min

The source for the bizarre humour of this Balkan comedy is life in 1970 Albania as perceived by Roma community leader Hekuran Romalini. The wily Hekuran averts mounting conflict with the local authorities by giving his ninth child the name of Mao Tse-tung, for a time winning the auspices of the Chinese embassy with choral recitations of slogans from Mao's Little Red Book...

Film screenings:
4D7 - 7.7., 19:30, Theatre Karlovy Vary
5L2 - 8.7., 13:30, Cinema Lazne III

Music | Muzika
Director: Juraj Nvota
Slovak Republic, Germany, 2007, 99 min, IP

The story of young maintenance man Martin who, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, takes up jazz, a pursuit which puts him out of sync with his environment, a small sleepy town near the Slovak border. The music gives Martin a sense of freedom, but it also takes him away from his family who are further jeopardised when another woman enters his life.

Film screenings:
6D7 - 9.7., 19:30, Theatre Karlovy Vary
7L2 - 10.7., 13:30, Cinema Lazne III

Of Parents and Children | O rodicích a detech
Director: Vladimir Michalek
Czech Republic, 2008, 112 min, IP

The regular walks taken together by a middle-aged son and his aging father through the magical urban landscape of Prague served experienced director as a starting point for his bitter-sweet comedy about family, personal and historical relationships. The fine performances by Josef Somr and David Novotny add to the film's appeal.

Film screenings:
6D9 - 9.7., 22:00, Theatre Karlovy Vary
7L3 - 10.7., 16:30, Cinema Lazne III

Seamstresses | Sivacki
Director: Lyudmil Todorov
Bulgaria, 2007, 87 min, IP

Unemployment forces three friends to leave their hometown for Sofia, hoping that the metropolis will fulfil their dreams and aspirations. Time passes and the girls realise that there is nothing for it but to reconcile themselves with their fate - but, as is well known, fate can be inscrutable and could have some surprises in store.

Film screenings:
2D6 - 5.7., 17:00, Theatre Karlovy Vary
3L4 - 6.7., 19:30, Cinema Lazne III

Time to Die | Pora umierac
Director: Dorota Kedzierzawska
Poland, 2007, 104 min

After an official lease comes to an end, the last tenant leaves what was once a grand villa, now in a state of disrepair. The elderly owner plans to renovate her family home, but her son has other ideas. This minimalist black-and-white film offers a poetic testimony in which the ascetic, objective camera is directed at the main character, superbly portrayed by the legendary Polish actress, 93-year-old Danuta Szaflarska.

Film screenings:
6D6 - 9.7., 17:00, Theatre Karlovy Vary
7L4 - 10.7., 19:30, Cinema Lazne III

Tulpan | Tulpan
Director: Sergey Dvortsevoy
Germany, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Russia, Poland, 2008, 100 min

After completing compulsory military service, Asa returns to his homeland on the steppes of Kazakhstan, where he lives in a yurt with his sister and her family. In order to start a new life and become independent, the first thing he must do is marry. Wives are scarce in those parts however, and the beautiful Tulpan, who the matchmaker claims is ideal for him, has no desire for the woesome Asa on account of his ears, colloquially referred to as "wings". Asa is not giving up though.

Film screenings:
4D9 - 7.7., 22:00, Theatre Karlovy Vary
5L3 - 8.7., 16:30, Cinema Lazne III

Vogelfrei | Vogelfrei
Director: Janis Kalejs, Gatis Smits, Janis Putnins, Anna Viduleja
Latvia, 2007, 93 min

The hero of this compelling, sensitive collection of film stories is a withdrawn outsider called Teodors. We first see him as a small boy playing games in the summer holidays, then as an adolescent hockey-player who starts up a relationship with a girl, after that a lonely but self-centred and manipulative manager, and finally a rural hunter of birds of prey.