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Offbeat Films at Karlovy Vary Festival

Offbeat Films at Karlovy Vary Festival

Offbeat Films at Karlovy Vary Festival

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The 58th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF), which kicks off in the Czech spa town on Friday, promises a balanced diet of world premieres and other movies to discover, as well as hits and favorites from the recent festival circuit.

Central Europe’s biggest cinema fest and party once again dishes up a mix of regional and international films, including serious and some more fun fare, with a healthy serving of edgy, innovative, genre-bending, maybe somewhat outlandish-sounding movies, which it has often used as a special ingredient.

So without further ado, here is THR‘s look at some of the more unusual and offbeat-sounding films that KVIFF will unspool for cineasts, tastemakers and industry insiders from June 28 through July 6.

Tiny Lights
Some filmmakers are proud of providing a new and different perspective on important topics and issues. Czech writer and director Beata Parkanová seems to have taken that challenge literally for her third feature, set to world premiere in the Karlovy Vary festival’s competition program.

Her new film, Tiny Lights, is about six-year-old Amálka who is shut out of a family argument in a small town and later finds out that her mother wants to separate to start life as an artist in Prague.

“Tiny Lights follows a family break-up as perceived by a child,” the plot description provided by KVIFF reads. “Through the keyhole, ear pressed to the door, everything seen at adult waist height.”

The director’s 2018 film Moments is described as “the self-discovery of young Anezka, whose mother is judgmental, whose father is a know-it-all, whose grandmother has cancer, and whose lover is a married man.” And her 2022 movie The Word focused on a couple facing challenges amid the 1968 Soviet invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia to crack down on reformist trends. The development puts the couple’s promise to always stand together to the test.

‘Tiny Lights’

Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Our Lovely Pig Slaughter
A dissection of a pig, and Czech mentality, in a Miloš Forman-inspired film? Gone on, tell us all a bit more!

“The pig-killing fest on an old farm is a tradition Karel looks forward to every year. It’s the only chance for the whole family to get together, have a good time, engage in a squabble or two, and enjoy some great food,” KVIFF summarized the movie’s plot in unveiling its 2024 lineup. “But this time, things are different.” 

Fest organizers even called Adam Martinec’s feature debut “a remarkably incisive study of the Czech temperament which, through its visceral character portrayal and searing humor, evokes the masterworks of the Czechoslovak New Wave.” Yes, that is the same Czech New Wave that hit the cinema world in the 1960s thanks to such directors as Forman, Ivan Passer, Jiří Menzel, Vojtech Jasny, Štefan Uher, and Jan Němec.

‘Our Lovely Pig Slaughter’

Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Trans Memoria
“I collect. I document. I write down my memories. I’m afraid they’ll disappear.” This is how Victoria Verseau, who is working in the fields of sculpture, installation, performance, and now film, introduces her intimate documentary diary, in which she returns to Thailand and to the year 2012 when she underwent her transition.

The Swedish creative’s debut film runs only 72 minutes, but viewers can expect an emotional and very intimate experience.

“The conceptual artist adopts an almost archaeological approach to the past and lays bare the process of writing a personal story that is intrinsically linked to the creation of her own identity,” says a KVIFF description. “In this deeply felt debut, she reveals the joyful aspects and also the dark recesses of transition and, bringing other testimonies into play as well, she critically examines what defines women as women.”

‘Trans Memoria’

Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

“A soft film about hard matter,” reads a tagline for writer-director Paula Ďurinová’s documentary. Its topics: rocks and the loss of loved ones.

So what can viewers of the 65-minute movie expect when it world premieres at Karlovy Vary? Among other things, the sound of autoharps resonating through gorges.

“Traversing through diverse rocky landscapes, director Paula Ďurinová deals with the sudden loss of her grandparents,” explains a film description. “Phases of grief unfold in this emerging ecosystem, offering a perspective full of empathy for minerals and life that is no more.”


Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Check out a trailer for Lapilli below.

A hotel room is “a place where everybody is a stranger,” and each part of the episodic Stranger is set in one of such rooms.

It presents the experiences of Chinese people in different hotels, “where they feel like strangers not only in the rooms but also in their home country,” according to a film description.

The focus on a small space is meant to stimulate thoughts about bigger issues. Or as KVIFF organizers put it: The movie from Chinese writer, director, producer and visual artist Zhengfan Yang promises “absurd, darkly humorous, poignant, and mysterious stories set in a seemingly confined space that nevertheless opens up new and surprising dimensions.”


Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

A Sudden Glimpse of Deeper Things

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Mark Cousins‘ new film, about Scottish artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, known for her abstract paintings, is narrated by none other than Tilda Swinton.

The movie is “exploring the pivotal 1949 experience atop Switzerland’s Grindelwald glacier that reshaped British modernist painter Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s artistic perspective for decades to come,” according to its IMDb entry.

The experience transformed the way she saw the world, the KVIFF announcement highlighted. “She spent the rest of her life capturing its shapes and colors, indeed its very essence,” it explained. “In his essayistic portrait, documentarist Mark Cousins delves into complex themes of gender, climate change, and creativity, while laying bare the artist’s character and vast imagination so pervasively that he creates the impression we are seeing the world through her eyes.”

‘A Sudden Glimpse of Deeper Things’

Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

A conservative middle-aged family woman suffering from advanced muscular dystrophy embarks on a turbulent journey into the depths of her sexual identity. That’s one possible synopsis for the film. “A middle-aged cashier’s monotonous routine is disrupted when her boss is mysteriously murdered, triggering a series of events that lead her to find self-worth and freedom,” reads another.

Either way, the feature film debut from writer-director Omer Tobi, born 1989 in Tel-Aviv to parents of Moroccan Tunisian origin, is likely to turn some heads.

It stars Irit Sheleg (Mary Magdalene, Fill the Void) who goes on what KVIFF describes as “an exploratory expedition to places where an important role is played by carnality, desire, and its gratification.” Sums up the festival: “Tropicana is a subtly enigmatic reflection on conservatism, prudery and the false ideal of physical beauty.”


Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

The Alienated
The devil may not only be in the detail but also in this thriller from Russia-born, Germany-based director Anja Kreis.

A philosophy professor discusses the concept of God’s death with her students, while her sister, a gynecologist, performs an illegal abortion for a young woman who claims to be carrying the Antichrist in her womb.

But the doc takes the embryo home. “A series of strange incidents begin to occur,” warns the ominous plot summary.

KVIFF highlighted the resulting uneasy vibes: “This mystical film by Anja Kreis is beguiling for its ominous atmosphere and raises uncomfortable questions about human conscience, morality, and faith.”

‘The Alienated’

Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

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