Documentary Days at Karlovy Vary

In the scenic valleys of Karlovy Vary, a luxurious spa town 130 kilometers west of Prague, film enthusiasts gathered for nine days (July 3 - 11) to celebrate international cinema with the 44th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, and documentary with its 'Docu Day.'
July 13, 2009

In the scenic valleys of Karlovy Vary, a luxurious spa town 130 kilometers west of Prague, film enthusiasts gathered for nine days (July 3 – 11) to celebrate international cinema with the 44th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. And while most industry delegates and public attendees were anxious to catch a glimpse of Crystal Globe recipient, John Malkovich, professionals and admirers of documentary film were championing the genre during the festival’s official ‘Docu Day.’

On the rainy morning of July 7th, ‘Docu Day’ opened with the annual ‘Docu Talents from the East’ presentation. Organized by the Institute of Documentary Film in Prague (IDF) and Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival (JIDFF), the industry event – geared towards festival programmers, distributors, sales agents and journalists – introduced a thematic selection of nine work-in-progress creative documentaries from the Eastern European region. With a mix of both emerging and established filmmakers, ‘Docu Talents’ offered political and philosophical insight to East European life through the framing of its subjects and the masters behind the cameras.

After much success with the acclaimed René, Czech director Helena Třeötíková, renowned for her long-term observational approach, presented her newest feature doc, Katka, in which she followed the central character for 13 years through her battles with heroin addiction, prostitution and theft on the streets of Prague. Also presented was Left Right Left Right, a personally brave investigation by director Erzsebet Racz into the Hungarian fascist group, the Order of the Brave, to which her deceased father belonged. The Romanian team, Ana Vlad and Adrian Voicu, revisited communist product brands in Metrobranding; and two projects from the ‘Ex Oriente’ documentary training program in the Czech Republic were also presented – Village of Women by Bosnian Srdjan Sarenac, follows three Serbian brothers attempting to find brides in their neighboring nemesis Albania, and Polish director Piotr Stasik’s The Last Day of Summer, a sentimental look at a loss of innocence in a Russian military school.

Following ‘Docu Talents,’ Doc Alliance, the newly launched online distribution platform, was presented through a demonstration of its features, functions, and film database. As a partnership between five distinguished European documentary festivals (CPH: DOX Copenhagen, DOK Leipzig, IDFF Jihlava, Planete Doc Review Warsaw and Visions Du Reel Nyon), Doc Alliance supports the diversity of feature documentaries while offering ‘attractive alternatives, debates, choices and perspectives.’ Doc Alliance ( provides permanent access to 250 outstanding documentaries selected by the five partner festivals. Each month, about 20 films are added which can be acquired through streaming or download.

In Karlovy Vary’s official documentary competition, titles included Jennifer Baichwal’s Act of God; Peter Liechti’s existentially bleak The Sound of Insects – Record of a Mummy; Juan Carlos Rulfo and Carlos Hagerman’s Those Who Remain, an exploration of Mexican villagers who watch their population dissolve across the American border; and Thriller in Manila by John Dower, a gripping reconstruction of the 1975 rematch between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for the heavyweight boxing title.

During the festival’s official closing ceremony on the evening of July 11th, Slovakian filmmaker Marko Skop was awarded best documentary feature for Osadné, a ‘document-toury-movie’ about the quirky encounters between the mayor and priest of Osadné (the last village on the border of the EU) and the European Parliament. The film was presented at last year’s ‘Docu Talents from the East’ and marks the second Karlovy Vary win for Skop and his producing team, who three years ago took the Audience Award and Special Jury Mention for their film Other Worlds. This year, the Special Jury Mention went to We Live in Public by Ondi Timoner, who also scooped the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2009.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.