Karlovy Vary Film Festival opens with pop and politics
After absenting itself from 2020 and hosting last year’s screening at a later date than usual and with a slightly smaller scale, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic city has kicked off this year’s 56th edition at full throttle with a fiery cocktail of pop and politics that continued into the next day.
Friday night’s opening ceremony set the scene perfectly, marrying effervescence and elegy as the dancers of the Cabani troupe literally writhed around fireballs on stage before festival president Jiří Bartoška took over. darker tones as he reflected on the recent loss of longtime festival matriarch Eva Zaoralova and the – continuing conflict in Ukraine.
Returning to the more pop side of the spectrum, opening film “Superheroes” kicked off this year’s edition with a dose of Italian lyrical emotion.
Directed by Paolo Genovese and helmed by stars Jasmine Trinca (“The Best of Youth”) and Alessandro Borghi (“Suburra”), the marital melodrama follows a sick and healthy Milanese couple, weaving two decades of milestones into a kind of non-linear tapestry. Jumping back and forth in time, the film uses a heavy hand to paint a soapy collage of fights and reconciliations, lacquering idyllic locations with a score of pop music to help drive the emotions forward. It is, in every way, bombastic.
But then, it was, in every way, a great night. Once the film was released, the crowd of a thousand gathered outside the main Karlovy Vary site for a free show featuring Czech band MIG 21, a 60-piece orchestra, 20 choir singers and two rather sassy dancers, and that ended – as such a statement might – with a firework display. The message was clear: this festival was back.
The next day, however, the pomp gave way to circumstance, particularly when actor Liev Schreiber took the stage. Although the ‘Ray Donovan’ star will attend an hour-long career retrospective in the coming days on Saturday, he wanted to shift the festival spotlight to more heartbreaking and immediate concerns. “We value celebrity in our culture,” the actor said at a press conference for the recently launched initiative. BlueCheck Ukraine. “And if that fame could be channeled into something useful, that’s a good thing.”
Indeed, during his 45-minute press conference, Schreiber struck an introspective tone as he reflected on his own Ukrainian heritage and the role his star stature could play in offering humanitarian support without sensationalizing the conflict or hogging the spotlight. .
“I am very tired of seeing presenters and talking heads in the media perpetuating this news cycle where we are fueling fear and suffering (of the Ukrainian people),” Schreiber said. “Although there is probably a great story (to be told), we are there and the time to tell it has not yet come.”
“It seems too high-pitched to tell stories,” he continued. “And besides, I’m too big to play Zelensky.”
Named after this seal of social media authenticity, Schreiber’s BlueCheck initiative instead seeks to act as a broker, connecting international donors to carefully vetted humanitarian aid projects already underway in Ukraine. The idea is to offer targeted support to local organizations that are – inherently and by definition – more nimble and responsive than other sprawling global bureaucracies.
“What we need is a moving target,” Schreiber explained. “One minute that could be food, another day that could be shelter, another day that could be medical help, or trauma care, or mental health. To do this effectively, you cannot find a single NGO; right now we have about a dozen, and you want to keep that portfolio as diversified as possible so you can invest in whatever comes up.
“The most motivated and effective people on the pitch are the Ukrainians,” Schreiber said. “So rather than giving your money to international charities, we want to find a way in, to help people who are helping themselves.”
And with that, the American star stepped out of the spotlight.