A brief Festival history
1946 - 1947
A film festival had been considered in Czechoslovakia even before the Second World War. The Ministry of Information and Culture supported the idea, aware of film´s social importance, and because of the favorable situation resulting from the nationalization of the Czechoslovak film industry in 1945. In August 1946 the first non-competition festival took place in Mariánské Lázně and Karlovy Vary.
In addition to the films presented by the nationalized film industry, films from countries with a strong movie making tradition like England, Sweden, the USA, and France were included. The number of films in the modest program (each day one film was screened three times at the Festival Theater in Mariánské Lázně and was then shown the next day at the new Open Air Cinema in Karlovy Vary) was compensated for by the quality of the movies selected and by the accompanying program of social events.
The festival´s second year in 1947 differed very little from the first.
1948 - 1955
The Communist takeover in February 1948 gave a new direction to the organization of the Karlovy Vary festival that lasted for several decades: the changeable political climate, closely tied to the international situation and political developments in society, was reflected each year in the festival program, in the conferral of awards, and in the selection of the guests.
The program was put together with an awareness of the propagandistic strength of film and the importance of this medium as a tool in the ideological struggle against the West. Films included in the program had to reflect the new "film map of the world": space was given to film industries that were young and either just starting out or in revival. These mirrored the journey toward the victory of socialism and the struggle for independence from colonial and imperialist dominance. If movies from capitalist countries found their way into the program then they were "progressive" films which dealt with class conflict and the difficult life of working people.
The zealous, rhetoric-filled slogans that appeared at the beginning of the fifties could be detected not only in the fundamental festival creed (the slogan for the third year-"For a new individual, for a more perfect people"-changed only formally in succeeding years, a number of festivals bearing the creed: "Towards a more noble relationship between people, and a lasting friendship between nations."), but also in the conferral of awards. To ensure that, as far as possible, no film from a socialist or developing country would lose, dozens of various awards were handed out; these recognized socialist efforts in competition films. The awards bore predictable names: the peace and work awards, the award for the struggle for freedom or social progress, the award for friendship between nations, the award for the struggle towards a better world, and many others of the same ilk.
3rd Karlovy Vary IFF 1948
The festival competition took place for the first time, as did the conferral of the Grand Prize Crystal Globe; this award became a permanent part of the festival even though its form changed over the years. The Grand Hotel Pupp (formerly Moskva) became the festival center. The Grand Prize went to the Polish film The Last Stage (Ostatni etap) directed by Wanda Jakubowska. American William Wyler was named best director for his film The Best Years of Our Lives.
6th Karlovy Vary IFF 1951
An international jury was selected for the first time to judge the competition films. The jury chairman was Prof. A. M. Brousil; he had filled the position in previous years and did so in a number of years to follow.
The festival did not take place in 1953 or 1955.
1956 - 1968
As of the mid fifties the festival program began to include films from the so-called third world. Thanks to great international interest in such films, and to a certain international détente, many major filmmakers from Western Europe, especially from France and Italy, were invited. The festival´s prestige also grew when in 1956 FIAPF designated the Karlovy Vary IFF as category A. Unfortunately, due to the founding of the Moscow IFF and the political decision to organize only one "A" festival per year among socialist countries, Karlovy Vary was forced to switch off with Moscow between 1959 and 1993.
Détente, which had begun in the second half of the fifties, reached its peak in the sixties. New trends in international film were featured alongside the no less significant movies of the Czechoslovak new wave. Film stars from around the world visited the festival every year, and top filmmakers came not only as guests but also as members of the festival jury.
9th Karlovy Vary IFF 1956
FIAPF classified the Karlovy Vary IFF as a "non-specialized festival with a feature film competition" (category A). Thanks to its quality preparations the Karlovy Vary festival became the most important film event of the year, and greatly elevated its standing among other international festivals. Luis Bunuel and Alberto Cavalcanti were among the festival guests.
11th Karlovy Vary IFF 1958
The festival began taking place every two years from this point on, alternating with the newly organized Moscow IFF. Cesare Zavattini was a member of the jury. The FIPRESCI jury sat for the first time.
13th Karlovy Vary IFF 1962
Tony Richardson´s A Taste of Honey and Pier Paolo Pasolini´s Accattone were among the award winning films.
14th Karlovy Vary IFF 1964
Luis Bunuel´s Diary of a Chambermaid (Le journal d´une femme de chamber) received an award. Ingmar Bergman´s The Silence (Tystnaden) and Elia Kazan´s America, America were screened out of the competition. Festival guests included Lindsey Anderson, Claudia Cardinale, Richard Attenborough, Henry Fonda, Elia Kazan, Karel Reisz and Lionel Rogosin (the last two were also members of the jury).
15th Karlovy Vary IFF 1966
Philippe Noiret, Carlo Ponti, Alain Resnais, and Susan Sontag, among others came to the festival. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was also a festival guest.
16th Karlovy Vary IFF 1968
In a year of political regeneration peaking with the so-called Prague Spring, the organization of the festival fundamentally changed. Festival regulations were reworked: the traditional competition was not held and in place of the international jury three independent juries were set up (creative, acting, and technical). That year at Karlovy Vary visitors could meet Tony Curtis, Ken Loach and Cesare Zavattini (the chairman of the creative jury which gave the Grand Prize to the Czech film Capricious Summer by Jiří Menzel).
1969 - 1989
In the seventies, during the period known as "normalization" which followed the forced suppression of the attempt at political change, ideology came once again to the fore. Gradually, Karlovy Vary became a festival of pompous slogan films from the Soviet Union and "brother nations" that were often presented in conjunction with various anniversaries and Communist party meetings held to support the difficult "struggle for freedom." The system for evaluating films once again reverted back to inspiration from the early fifties: a variety of juries conferred as many as forty awards at each festival (in the 1980s).
Given the ubiquitous rhetoric, with few exceptions the quality of program offerings fell. This fact became evident, too, in the public´s declining interest in the festival. At the time, standards were only maintained in the informative section where viewers still had the opportunity to see key movies from world-renowned filmmakers, as well as films awarded at other festivals. In spite of this many important guests came to Karlovy Vary during this twenty year period: Ken Loach, Krzysztof Zanussi, Yves Boisset, Franco Nero, Carlos Saura, Sergei Bondarchuk, Peter Fonda, Giuseppe De Santis, Monica Vitti, Giulietta Masina, Bernardo Bertolucci, and many others.
21st Karlovy Vary IFF 1978
The Hotel Thermal (designed by Věra and Vladimír Machonin) was built as the new festival center. A competition for debut filmmakers from every continent was held for the first time.
1990 - present
The great social and political changes that took place after November 1989 finally freed the Karlovy Vary festival from political pressure. In the future, what the festival offered the public, given tough domestic and international competition, would determine its existence - not the interests of the state.
27th Karlovy Vary IFF 1990
The public enthusiastically welcomed a collection of Czechoslovak films which had recently been made available after years of storage in a vault (many were known about but had never been screened before in a cinema). Many international and Czechoslovak filmmakers (as well as some who had emigrated) came to the festival, among them Miloš Forman, Lindsey Anderson, Robert de Niro, and Annette Bening.
28th Karlovy Vary IFF 1992
Despite the success of the 1990 festival, Karlovy Vary remained connected in people´s minds with the past and no one expected it to be organized much longer. Financial problems faced by the organizers (in addition to their own laxity as well as a lack of interest on the part of the government and audiences) nearly ended the festival´s long tradition. Interesting programming choices including retrospectives and a section entitled The Magnificent Seven (presenting the work of independent American filmmakers) were completely lost.
29th Karlovy Vary IFF 1994
After the catastrophe of the preceding festival it was clear that the Karlovy Vary IFF must overhaul its organization from the ground up, and precisely specify its goals. In 1993 the Ministry of Culture, the Town of Karlovy Vary, and the Grand Hotel Pupp instituted an independent foundation charged with the preparation and organization of future festivals. Distinguished film actor Jiří Bartoška was asked to be president of the foundation.
Several basic changes took place: after almost forty years of alternating with the Moscow IFF, the Karlovy Vary festival once again looked forward to being organized on a yearly basis. On the one hand, the organizers decided to put together a quality program (coordinated by the festival´s future program director: film columnist and critic Eva Zaoralová), and on the other, to attract actors and filmmakers of international renown.
The program was divided into several specific sections that went on to become the basis of the program for the future: it included, for example, "Another View" and "East of the West" (with this latter section the organizers took advantage of both a Karlovy Vary festival tradition and the Czech Republic´s geographic location as a kind of transition point between East and West. In this way the festival continued introducing visitors to interesting films from former socialist countries). Festival guests included John Schlessinger, Agnieszka Holland, John Irvin, Max von Sydow, Philippe Noiret, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Beresford, Irvin Kershner, and others.
30th Karlovy Vary IFF 1995
The image of crowds of young people filling cinemas in Karlovy Vary quickly quelled disappointment over the fact that the category A classification had been allotted to the new Prague IFF for that year. It also made it perfectly clear that the Karlovy Vary festival benefited from the uniquely gorgeous spa town environment. The town of Karlovy Vary provides an ideal atmosphere for those who wish to see many films (and to meet those who made and acted in them) that would never make it into wider distribution. Among those who attended this jubilee year were Gina Lollobrigida, Mia Farrow, Jerzy Stuhr, Jon Jost, and Teresa Villaverde. The festival held a documentary competition for the first time.
31st Karlovy Vary IFF 1996
The festival´s popularity is on the rise. The number in attendance nearly doubled from the previous year (to about 6,000 accredited), and hundreds of journalists and foreign guests arrived (producers, distributors, filmmakers, and actors). Almost every screening sold out, crowds of people continuously filled the festival center, and numbers of noted foreign guests, including Gregory Peck, Alan Alda, Whoopi Goldberg, Julia Ormond (a member of the main jury), Pierre Richard, and others, contributed to the festival´s dazzling success. This year made the festival an almost cult destination for film lovers.
32nd Karlovy Vary IFF 1997
Thanks to its recent success, Karlovy Vary was once again designated as a category A festival while the Prague IFF died after its second year. The number of viewers rose once again though not as dramatically (to about 7,000 accredited), and the organizers took pains in advance to solve the problem of the lack of screening rooms and cinemas (to avoid needlessly deterring film enthusiasts); they also adopted some necessary safety measures. The program featured 297 films, more than ever before in the festival´s history, and a film market was also organized. The festival created its own website where visitors had a chance to watch daily festival news reports. Guests included Miloš Forman, Salma Hayek, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Christopher Walken, Geoffrey Wright, and Steve Buscemi.
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