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Preview of Tributes at the 58th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

As we enter the warmth of spring, we are one step closer to the return of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) — this year celebrating its 58th edition. As one of Europe’s oldest film festivals, nestled in a verdant, picturesque, mountain spa town in the Czech Republic, the festival has always been a powerful launching pad for Eastern Europe’s biggest cinematic names. What I’ve also come to love about the festival, apart from its robust programming out of Cannes, Sundance, Berlin, and SXSW, along with the aforementioned top European titles that premiere there, is the illuminating retrospective blocs. 

In 2023, in fact, the festival paid tribute to Japanese auteur Yasuzō Masumura — bringing the filmmaker’s works to light for a new generation of moviegoers. This year, the KVIFF classics return with a new slate of definitive Czech cinema and other cinematic landmarks tied to the centenary of Franz Kafka’s passing.

The retrospective entitled “The Wish To Be a Red Indian: Kafka and Cinema” will feature highlights such as Orson Welles’ “The Trial,” Ousmane Sembene’s “The Money Order,” Pavel Juráček’s “Joseph Kilian,” Jan Němec’s “Metamorphosis,” Roman Polanski’s “The Tenant,” Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours,” Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s “Tetsuo,” Steven Soderbergh’s “Kafka” and “Mr. Kneff,” and more. 

“For decades, Kafka’s oeuvre has functioned as a continuing provocation to filmmakers,“ explained KVIFF’s artistic director Karel Och and the festival’s consultant Lorenzo Esposito (both co-curated the programme). “It is as if he were slyly challenging them to attempt to capture as authentically and intensely as possible the elusive nature of his formulations, of his narratives, of the realities he has crafted and the feelings of apprehension he elicits, yet also of the comic situations he has created."

Kafka was born in Prague, when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (following World War I, with the birth of Czechoslovakia, he became a Czech citizen). Before dying of tuberculosis at the age of 40, he penned groundbreaking novels like Amerika, The Trial, and The Castle, along with the masterly novella The Metamorphosis. Psychologically rich and brimming with acute symbolism, heightened to greater intensity through a keen sense of environment, physicality, and dark fantasy — you can see why one hundred years since his death, Kafka remains a major inspiration for filmmakers in particular.

Separately, KVIFF will premiere a restoration of Czechoslovak director František Vláčil’s Western “Shadows of a Hot Summer.” When it originally premiered at the 21st KVIFF, it was awarded the Crystal Globe for Best Film. Starring Juraj Kukura, Marta Vančurová, Gustav Valach, Jiří Bartoška — the film is set two years after the Second World War, featuring a gang of Banderites who come across a peaceful hamlet with violent intentions.  

Teaming with Variety, the festival will also honor casting director Francine Maisler. Her work can be seen on more than seventy feature films, most notably “The Revenant” and “Birdman,” “Milk,” “As Good As It Gets,” “The Tree of Life,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Blade Runner 2049.” In 2024 alone, her projects include “Dune: Part Two,” “Bikeriders,” “Challengers,” “Civil War,” “Joker: Folie à Deux,” and “Mufasa.” In 2022, she won a Primetime Emmy award for “Succession.” She’s also been honored with the Casting Society of America’s Artios Awards fifteen times.

“We are glad to have begun a new tradition at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where every year we honor one important representative from the film industry. One goal of this project is to call attention to film professions that are not immediately visible but that are vital to a film’s success,” explains KVIFF’s executive director Kryštof Mucha. “After honoring longtime director of Marché du Film Jerôme Paillard and producer Christine Vachon, this year we will pay homage to casting director Francine Maisler. The profession of casting director has gained increasing attention over the past years, as evidenced among other things by the fact that, starting in 2026, the Academy Awards will include an Oscar for casting.”

KVIFF will also honor actor Ivan Trojan with its President’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Czech Cinema. He is a seven-time recipient of the Czech Lion, with four further nominations. His major credits include Andrea Sedláčková’s “Seducer,” David Ondříček’s “In the Shadows,” Agnieszka Holland’s “Charlatan,” his brother Ondřej Trojan’s Želary and many more. 

In the coming weeks, KVIFF will announce their selections for the Crystal Globe and Proxima competitions, its Horizon and Special Screenings sections, and further tributes for cinema’s biggest names. In the meantime, the Kafka programming is enough to warm one’s curiosity with the same comfort as the oncoming summer.   

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