While the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival prides itself on showcasing choice European fare to global cinephiles, the last six years has seen the festival build its industry strand into one of the most attractive places in Central Europe to source regional talent. Dubbed Eastern Promises and steered by respected Head of Film Industry Office Hugo Rosák, the popular program promotes promising filmmakers from Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East and connects them with distributors, sales agents, producers and festival programmers.
In addition to a busy schedule of workshops and panels, the main goal of the event is to showcase carefully selected projects at various stages of development through its three works in progress programs: Works In Progress; Works In Development – Feature Launch; and First Cut+. Projects all compete for various prizes throughout the event.
“When we started Eastern Promises we always wanted to be a kind of incubator to introduce unfinished work to industry professionals,” Rosák tells Deadline. “Filmmakers in Central and Eastern Europe have never really been so used to this idea of pitching their work and introducing it or coming together and looking for co-productions. So, I think this is where we realized it would be good in some way to try and imbue this ourselves.”
This year, because of Covid-19, Eastern Promises was held online for the second year in a row, this year just ahead of the festival from July 28 – August 12. A selection of 29 film projects were showcased across various programs in a neatly packaged, state-of-the-art online forum. KVIFF partnered with WYTH platform that allowed interaction and enabled attendees to watch different projects and different pitches at various stages as well as arrange one-to-one meetings.
“It was important for us this year to continue our mission to bring quality projects from the region and present them to buyers and producers who can bring them closer to distribution,” Rosák says. “When we were discussing what to do in terms of the industry lineup earlier this year, there was still a very unclear situation on whether people would be able to travel or not so we decided to do it online before the festival and we could adjust the schedule accordingly. I was anticipating that there might have been a little bit of fatigue when it came to online forums this year, but the reality was people really responded. Plus, it’s fun to watch for people because it gives them a nice overview of what’s cooking up in Central and Eastern Europe.”
This year a raft of diverse and personal stories won awards in the Eastern Promises strand. Documentaries were allowed to compete against feature films for the first time this year, a new approach that mirrors the festival’s rejig of its main competition. “Both categories, despite their differences, possess the same artistic value,” says Rosák.
Among the winners this year were Czech title Head Nurse, directed by Jan Vejnar and produced by Kamila Dohnalová, which was awarded the Works In Development – Feature Launch KVIFF & MIDPOINT Development Award worth €10,000 ($11,773) for further development. Story looks at different characters and situations encountered by the head nurse at a Czech hospital. Iranian-French co-production An Owl, A Garden And The Writer, an intimate portrait from director Sara Dolatabada of her novelist father Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, nabbed the Works In Progress Post-Production award while Michal Blaško’s Slovakia-Czech-German title Victim collected the Works In Progress TRT Award worth €5,000 ($5,886).
Its First Cut+ program, launched in 2020 to boost the marketability of feature films that participated in its First Cut Lab, lauded two films this year: Polish prisoner story The Hatcher, from Grzegorz Molda and Swiss-German love story A Piece Of Sky by Michael Koch.
“It’s been great to see this year how everyone has started to focus on production without being too afraid of it,” says Rosák. “The young producers are excited at the moment and they are seeing a lot of great opportunities for sharing and collaborating with producers around Europe. For many years, especially in the Czech Republic, a lot of young filmmakers have been sitting around and waiting until they do that huge film. But we’ve been trying to shift that perspective a little and encourage them to just continue making art and continue making films.”
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