This week sees the grand opening of the 13th annual Febiofest film festival, a regular date in the diaries of the nation's film buffs. It starts in the capital Prague, before moving on to Moravia, stopping off in Brno, Olomouc and Ostrava, before returning to Bohemia for shows in Liberec, Jihlava and Pardubice. There are 284 films being shown in this year's festival in various categories, from an Andy Warhol retrospective to a panorama of Young European Cinema. I've been finding out more from festival spokesman Pavel Sladky.
"Febiofest is always a kind of travelling around the world, because there are films from Asia, from South Africa, from the USA, all the European countries and so on. It's a festival of film, it's not a festival of stars or big ceremonies."
So it's a festival for the true film enthusiasts in this country.
"Yes, I would say so."
What are some of the films that will be shown this year?
"There are many films in many sections. The biggest section is New Cinema Releases, which has 40 films in it, and it's very interesting for our cinemagoers, they buy a lot of tickets. This year we've got Fernando Meirelles' "The Constant Gardener""
A big hit in the States and Europe...
"Yes, an Oscar winning film for Rachel Weisz, it's one of the most famous films this year, I think some of the screenings are already sold out. There is "Match Point", the new Woody Allen film. There is "Tbilisi, Tbilisi", a very special, very good Georgian film which took more than 10 years to make, with nearly no money, in Tbilisi, reflecting the harsh reality of today's Georgia. It's a very informative but very cinematographic film, because it both reflects today's Georgia and it's a kind of cinematographic tribute to classical European films, mainly Italian and French films, and to all Georgian films."
And you also have a series of Andy Warhol films?
"Yes, these films are screened at Cinema Ponrepo, which is the main screening hall for the National Film Archive, and it's a very important tribute for us. This section is called "Andy Warhol Presents", because last year films were screened from the National Film Archive, but these Andy Warhol films are coming from the USA, because this tribute was made in co-operation with the Museum of Modern Art in New York."
Do you have any personal favourites?
"I'd like to see "Tbilisi, Tbilisi". I haven't seen it yet, but everyone here at Febiofest is talking about it, so there's a bit of a buzz about it. Then there's "Un Couple Parfait", a Japanese-French film, a kind of intellectual hit because the famous French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema voted it Film of the Year in 2005, Nobuhiro Suwa is the name of the director. There are some Asian films which I like, like "Marebito", by the famous horror, thriller and shocker director Takashi Shimizu. There are new Kim Ki-Duk films which are very popular in the Czech Republic, and many more."
Most films at the festival are being shown at Prague's Village Cinemas in Andel. That's a big multiplex cinema with audiences who traditionally go and see Hollywood blockbusters, was it difficult to persuade them to hold a film festival there?
"This is our second year at Village Cinemas, and we're quite happy there, because they have all we need."
So you can guarantee them a full house.
"Yes, for sure. At the moment we've already sold 25,000 tickets. A lot of people are coming just for the Febiofest music festival, which is right there at Village Cinemas Andel. A lot of food is sold, a lot of articles are written in the newspapers and magazines."
So it gets a lot of coverage in the media.
"Yes, because it's the 13th year, and it's more and more famous each year. Two years ago we were in another multiplex, which wasn't that good for us."
Can a multiplex really offer the right atmosphere for a film festival though? It doesn't have the same classy atmosphere as some of the older, art deco cinemas in Prague.
"Some cinemas maybe have a better atmosphere, but you can't screen 284 films in seven or eight cinemas all around Prague, you have to concentrate them in one place. This multiplex is also great because it's not part of a shopping centre, it's just a cinema, some restaurants, everything you need. There's a press centre, there's a gold-class cinema for our guests, where press conferences with Claudia Cardinale and other famous guests will be held. There is all you need, which you don't get anywhere else."
There are so many film festivals in the Czech Republic - the Karlovy Vary international film festival, the One World festival of documentary films, the Uherske Hradiste summer film festival, there's even a festival of Bollywood film - can there be too many film festivals?
"There are quite a lot, but people don't think there are too many. They still go to the cinemas every year, most festivals are still growing, because a lot of people are coming, a lot of films are coming. And maybe another reason is that Czech distribution is still not good enough to satisfy all the people in Prague."
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