On The Ground: Catherine Bray checks out the UK films at Karlovy Vary 2023
The 57th edition of Czech festival Karlovy Vary has just wrapped, and Team British Council was proud to be there to support UK films of all kinds – from shorts, to mid-lengths, to features, ranging from festival favourites making their Czech premiere after bowing in Cannes, to world premieres wowing audiences for the first time.
The UK’s star turn came via the ambitious debut from Naqqash Khalid, In Camera, which enjoyed a successful world premiere in the Proxima Competition. Reviews were stellar, with Guy Lodge from Variety calling the film “a simultaneously playful and savagely pointed satire,” while for Wendy Ide from Screen International, In Camera is “a savage satire that dips into unnerving fantasy imagery and squirmingly uncomfortable honesty, while also delivering some bleakly deadpan comic moments,” and Hannah Strong from Little White Lies reporting “The myriad absurdities and pressures of modern life are on full display in Naqqash Khalid’s debut feature – a bold and inventive drama”
Four years after Invisible Life (The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão), Karim Aïnouz opened Karlovy Vary with his new film Firebrand, which recently competed in Cannes for the Palme d’Or. This UK production was selected for Karlovy Vary as part of the festival’s tribute to star Alicia Vikander, who plays Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII, in this adaptation of the novel The Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle. Also playing Karlovy Vary following a Cannes world premiere, Jessica Hausner’s Club Zero starred Mia Wasikowska as a charismatic teacher who gains a cult-like following at an elite school for young women.
Jalmari Helander’s Sisu, a UK co-production with Finland, proved to be the perfect selection for the Midnight Screenings strand, which is pretty much exactly the right time of night to watch an unconventional action hero efficiently despatching the Nazis who are trying to steal his gold. Another ambitious co-production, Mama Wata – A West African Folklore, saw the UK, France and Nigeria join forces for C.J. "Fiery" Obasi’s new contribution to the Nigerian New Wave.
Over in Karlovy Vary’s Out of the Past strand, for classic and cult films, UK director Adrian Sibley’s The Ghost of Richard Harris honoured the late great Irish actor, poet and singer Richard Harris (1930-2002), exploring his iconic roles in This Sporting Life, Red Desert and Gladiator, with the input of Harris’s sons, Jared, Jamie and Damian.
Meanwhile, in the Imagina strand dedicated to platforming experimental work, it was great to see Luke Fowler’s Being in a Place: A Portrait of Margaret Tait selected for the festival. The UK was well-represented in the festivals short form showcases too, with Céline Condorelli and Ben Rivers’ After Work, Garden Amidst the flame (a co-production with Indonesia, Switzerland and the Netherlands) from Natasha Tontey, and Licking Wounds, from Joseph Wilson, all screening to an international audience in Czechia.
We also found time to check out some of Karlovy Vary’s prime filming locations, as part of a delegation joining an industry tour organised by the festival in collaboration with the Czech Film Commission, visiting the 12th-century Gothic castle Loket and surrounding village, a filming location for none other than James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, standing in for Montenegro.
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