10 Picks for the 2018 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

10 Picks for the 2018 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

The 53rd annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival kicks off from today, June 29, and runs through next Saturday, July 7, in the famed Czech spa town. This year’s festival has drawn attention for some of the big names that will be attending - Tim Robbins, Anna Paquin, and Robert Pattinson, among numerous others - but the real big draw of KVIFF is the movies. 

If you’re headed to Karlovy Vary over the course of the next week and don’t have a game plan for what to see, feel free to take some inspiration from below. 

In Competition: To the Night


Films screening in competition at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will be having their world or international premieres, meaning you could be among the first to see a future classic, as were audiences who caught Crystal Globe-winning Amélie back in 2001. 

This year, one of the more interesting features playing in competition might be Austrian director Peter Brunner’s To the Night, starring Caleb Landry Jones as a man still coming to grips with the fire that took his family when he was a boy. The actor, who enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2017 with roles in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and Get Out, will personally introduce the film at this year’s festival. 

Documentary Competition: Putin’s Witnesses

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Vitaliy Manskiy, who drew rave reviews for his look behind the scenes in North Korea in 2015’s Under the Sun, now presents a feature dedicated to the rise of one of the most powerful and mysterious figures in international politics. Putin’s Witnesses follows the events of December 1999 when Vladimir Putin first ascended to power in Russia. 

East of the West Competition: Blossom Valley

One of KVIFF’s longstanding competition sections gives audiences a chance to catch films they might not otherwise get a chance to see; while no longer behind the Iron Curtain, modern cinema from former Eastern Bloc nations is often overlooked. 

Blossom Valley, a Hungarian movie about young lovers on the run, puts a unique spin on familiar road movie tropes and marks the dramatic feature debut of director László Csuja. 

Cannes Redux: Cold War

The timing of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival makes for a great second (or third) stop for high-profile festival fare that debuted at last month’s festival in Cannes, and the 2018 KVIFF is no exception. 

One of the most talked-about films at Cannes this year was the latest from director Paweł Pawlikowski, who also made waves a few years back with Ida. Cold War, a love story set throughout various European locales during the 1950s, is said to be a shoe-in for a Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar nomination at next year’s Academy Awards.

Sundance Selects: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

KVIFF is also a prime destination for films coming off success at Sundance. Director Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post stars Chloë Grace Moretz as a teenager sent to gay conversion therapy in the 1990s; it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year. 

Festival Favorites: Everybody Knows

The latest film from Asghar Farhadi was overshadowed by other features when it debuted in Cannes last month, but I’ve yet to see a less-than-exceptional movie from the director. Everybody Knows stars Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem in a family drama about people coming to terms with their past. 

Special Events: Loves of a Blonde

The 53rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival will pay a special tribute to iconic Czech director Miloš Forman, who passed away earlier this year. Forman’s classic Loves of a Blonde, which earned an Oscar nomination in 1965, will open this year’s festival. 

Midnight Movies: Mandy

Fans of Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) have long been hyped for the director’s latest film starring Nicolas Cage, which made a big splash when the trailer debuted earlier this week. KVIFF audiences will be among the first to see Mandy after it debuted in Cannes and Sundance.  

New Czech Movies: Insect (Hmyz)

Another special, and oft-overlooked, section at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is dedicated to new Czech movies from the past year. If you live in Prague, you have no excuse for not catching Insect, which remains one of the best films I’ve seen this year. If not, here’s your chance to dig into Jan Švankmajer’s wonderful swan song. 

Made in Texas: Damsel

A special section at this year’s KVIFF organized with Austin-based director Richard Linklater will spotlight films from Texas filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), Andrew Bujalski (Computer Chess), and Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter). 

Along with the work of David and Nathan Zellner, whose latest film Damsel, starring Robert Pattinson, will also screen during the festival. Pattinson himself will show up for the KVIFF closing ceremony.

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