Record Attendance at Art Film Fest

The total attendance of the 17th annual Art Film Fest reached a total of 31 281 visitors.

“Viewers are very important to the festival, and every day this year we have really had full cinemas and I take great pleasure in that. My greatest experience has been last Saturday, when I visited four cinemas, and they were all full,” said Art Film Fest’s president Milan Lasica.

Art Film Fest’s program director Peter Nágel was also content at the festival’s end. “Doubts of whether the festival has crowd-drawing potential have been averted, shown by the daily-increasing attendance levels. For me this is a tremendous surprise and all the more encouraging for our work in the coming years,” he remarked.

The 17th was also cited as an extraordinary good year by Peter Hledík, Art Film Fest’s vice-president and coordinator of the Actor’s Mission and Golden Camera awards. “Five years ago, when we began co-operating with Ján Kováčik, we said to ourselves that in five years, things will start to visibly improve. And at a film festival, nothing is more visible than the cinemas. And nothing is worse than an empty cinema, and nothing is better than a visibly full cinema. And this year we have had all of the cinemas full, lots of viewers and good films,” he said.

At Art Film Fest, film fans could see a total of more than 150 short and feature-length live-action, documentary and animated films. Art Film Fest welcomed world-famous actor Jeremy Irons, who personally accepted the festival’s Actor’s Mission Award. Last Saturday, 20 June, in Trenčianske Teplice’s cinema, he personally introduced his famous film Swann in Love from 1984, in which he played alongside Ornella Muti. He likewise participated in the midnight screening of his picture Dead Ringers, for which he received a New York Film Critics Circle Award for best actor. Right on the festival’s opening day, in the presence of the director Cory Taylor himself, Art Film Fest screened The Power of the Powerless, the exceptional American documentary on the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution, narrated by none other than Irons.

Czech actor Jaromír Hanzlík also received the Actor’s Mission Award at Art Film Fest. He appeared on the Bridge of Fame on Friday, 26 June, and after accepting the award, he personally introduced the film Coach to Vienna from 1966, where he portrayed a dejected Nazi soldier. He stayed at the festival for the whole week, and his presence was much appreciated. “I admire this festival. I’m surprised at what the organizers have managed. Everything is really professionally put together. It’s a small festival, but attended by such stars! When I crossed the Bridge of Fame and saw everyone who has visited – from Franco Nero to Gina Lollobrigida and Omar Sharif – I have to say, hats off! I’m honoured to have a plaque next to such major figures,” he said.

Art Film Fest was visited by other distinguished guests as well. The Golden Camera was accepted by one of the best-known Italian directors of the last fifty years, Ettore Scola, who personally introduced his world-famous film Le Bal. From the Czech Republic arrived the cult director and grande dame of Czech film, Věra Chytilová. She personally introduced the motion picture Tainted Horseplay.

Directors of competing films also came to Trenčianske Teplice and Trenčín to personally introduce their films: Peter Strickland with Katalin Varga, Uberto Pasolini with Machan and Tomáš Řehořek with Metamorphoses, accompanied by the film’s producer, Czech actor Karel Roden. Audiences were also able to discuss with Jan Novák, who presented his new documentary Citizen Havel is Rolling Barrels at Art Film Fest. Also highly appreciated was the visit from gallant Stanley Kubrick producer Jan Harlan, who presented the director’s cult horror film The Shining.

This year’s Art Film Fest had premieres as well. With director Ivan Vojnár at the helm, a delegation of the film’s participants was present at the premiere of the long-awaited Slovak motion picture My Husband’s Women. Juraj Krasnohorský introduced his short film X=X+1, which even Harlan himself praised. Director Jakub Kroner presented the first public screening of his film Bratislavafilm.

Art Film Fest screened other Slovak films in the Slovak Season section, including Soul at Peace from Vlado Balko, Heaven, Hell… Earth from director Laura Siváková, the documentary Moon Inside You from Diana Fabiánová, Cooking History from Peter Kerekes, Before This Film Is Over from Tomáš Hučko, Mystery of Underground from Pavol Barabáš, Between 4-5, 6 from Vlado Balco and Koliba from Zuzana Piussi.

This year’s Art Film Fest featured two competition sections. The International Competition of Feature Films was judged by a five-member international jury, including Hungarian actress and director Eniko Eszenyi, German curator, dramaturge and film festival director Heiko Fischer, American critic and publicist Jay Weissberg, Czech actor and director Jan Kačer and Slovak actress, singer and world-traveller Dorota Nvotová.

From among fifteen competing pictures, the British film Hunger emerged victorious, its director Steve McQueen having also won the Caméra d’Or for best debut at last year’s Cannes. After Art Film Fest he took home the Blue Angel Award and fifteen thousand euros.

“It is a very psychologically demanding film and professionally wrought. It meets its intellectual demands and grips the viewer with its plot and suggestive storytelling. It displays an ability to cohesively combine an utterly artistic experience with general appeal. The film’s casting was precisely thought out, with excellent and praise-worthy performances,” concurred the International Jury.

The picture Hunger The picture Hunger garnered yet another award at Art Film Fest: the Blue Angel award for best actor, accompanied by a monetary prize of 2 500 euros, was given to Hunger’s star, actor Michael Fassbender from Great Britain.

The Competition of Short Films was judged by a three-member jury including Polish film historian and theorist Jadwiga Glowa, Romanian screenwriter and director Adrian Sitaru and Slovak animator, director and producer Ivana Zajacová. From among forty-six films up to thirty minutes long, they selected the Malaysian picture Everyday Everyday from director Chui Mui as the winner. The director personally accepted the On the Road prize and 500 euros.

“For mastery, professionalism and a stirring, authentic experience of creative acting,” commented the jury.

The Blue Angel Award for best director, in conjunction with a 5 000-euro monetary prize, was given to director Warwick Thornton’s Samson & Delilah. The Australian film was also awarded with the Caméra d’Or for best debut at this year’s Cannes.

“For its innovation and suggestiveness, masterful handling of difficult themes, lack of pretence and deep message,” explained the five-member jury.

1. The Blue Angel Award for best actress, accompanied by a monetary prize of 2 500 euros, was taken by actress Nesipkul Omarbekova, who played the leading role in the film Native Dancer.

A special jury mention was received by the Korean picture Treeless Mountain from director So Yong Kim, about little girls whose childhood innocence is taken by adult lies, and who movingly attempt to find their place in the world, which isn’t exactly ideal for children.

This year’s Art Film Fest featured an homage to the well-known, freshly seventy-year-old Czech director Petr Weigl. The Czech creator of musical films, having directed film adaptations of operas and ballets such as Raduz a Mahulena, Rusalka, Eugen a Onegin and A Village Romeo and Juliet, took home a special gift prepared for him by the event’s organizer, actress Magda Vášáryová: a fir tree with photographs of “his” Slovak actors, who he, in his own words, adored. The event was also attended by Milan Kňažko, Soňa Valentová and Kamila Magálová.

The section Dancing 80’s, which at the festival’s end screened the famous film Moonwalker with Michael Jackson, was personally introduced by dancer and choreographer Ján Ďurovník.

The festival president Milan Lasica selected his own favourite comedies for the section Best of Comedy, which he personally presented in the festival cinemas.

In the section Around the World, festival visitors were able to see true gems of world cinema, such as the Oscar-nominated winner of the latest festival in Venice Wrestler, from director Darren Aronofsky, featuring the celebrated comeback of veteran actor Mickey Rourke. They also had the chance to see film portraits of George Bush, Che Guevara and Mike Tyson.

In the section European Corner, Art Film Fest once again brought the latest adaptation of the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, countess of Čachtice. The picture The Countess was shot and starred in by renowned French actress and director Julie Delpy.

Cult! featured pictures that have made film history. Love & Anarchy once again surveyed the most contemporary trends of independent European, American and Asian film. And the Late Night Show brought another array of shocking and unique films.

In addition to films, visitors could attend two major open-air concerts free of charge. On Sunday, 21 June, Trenčín’s main square welcomed an outstanding band from our western neighbours, the Eben Brothers, led by the famous TV moderator and actor Marek Eben. Art Film Fest’s second major concert took place on Wednesday, 24 June, when the popular Czech group Kryštof, with the charismatic Richard Krajčo at the helm, made Trenčín dance. In the festival café, the musician Oskar Rózsa once again presented performers such as Jana Kirschner, the group Fragile and Marcel Palonder.