The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, one of the longest-running and most celebrated film festivals not only in the Czech Republic, but throughout Central Europe, will celebrate its 52nd edition next month in the Czech spa town.
But there’s another Czech film festival turning 57 this year: the Zlín Film Festival, which began in 1961. (While the Karlovy Vary fest predates that by 15 years, it was only held every other year until 1995).
The festival in Zlín, held at the end of every May, is unique in another way: also known as the International Film Festival for Children and Youth, its program focuses on films both about and targeting younger audiences, and it’s one of the largest film festivals of this kind across the world.
A note of caution for family audiences: while the festival presents youth films, that doesn’t always mean they are films for children. Previous fest winners include movies like Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También, which featured explicit sex scenes and had to be censored to receive an ‘R’ rating in the US.
This year’s festival in Zlín kicks off on Friday, May 26, and continues through next Saturday, June 3.
The festival breaks down films in competition into two categories: Films for Children, which target a younger audience, and Films for Youths, films about young people which often feature serious themes of adolescence.
Films in the Children’s section include Swedish puppet movie Up the Sky, the Indian road movie Half Ticket, the Iranian coming-of-age tale Number Four, and the Czech-Slovak co-production Little Harbor, from director Iveta Grófová, which also played at this year’s Berlinale.
The Youth section, meanwhile, features films like The Edge of Seventeen, starring Haillee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson, which opened to widespread praise in the US last fall, but has yet to see a Czech release.
Also in the Youth section, among other films: Fatih Akin’s Goodbye Berlin, the Chilean drama Bad Influence, Canadian track & field flick 1:54, and two UK features, London Town and Just Charlie.
While the films in competition are all new releases that have yet to see exposure in the Czech Republic, the festival also presents some old classics like the Czech movie Gentlemen, Boys (Páni kluci, 1975), a local take on Mark Twain.
One of the themes at this year’s festival is a look at Swedish movies, which includes classics like Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, Roy Andersson’s A Swedish Love Story, Lasse Hallström’s My Life as a Dog, and Lukas Moodysson’s Show Me Love.
Celebrating 110 years of author Astrid Lindgren, Swedish film adaptations featuring her famous characters Pippi Longstocking, Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, and Kalle Blomkvist will also be presented.
Another section is dedicated to Swiss cinema, and will feature recent hits like the Oscar-nominated animated film My Life as a Zucchini and the latest Heidi adaptation, from director Alain Gsponer.
Most of the foreign-language films at the festival, including local Czech productions, will be presented with English subtitles. Note that some of the children’s films will also feature dubbing or simultaneous Czech translation.
Special events at the festival will take place at Zlín’s truly-grand Grand Cinema, which first opened in 1931 and can seat over 2,500 guests.
If you have some downtime during the festival, the city itself offers a number of other highlights; be sure to check out Czech shoe magnate Tomáš Baťa’s still-standing factory buildings and the excellent Zlín-Lešná Zoo, which features a tank of manta rays that visitors can feed (and pet!)