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Uherske Hradiste film festival will honor Jerzy Stuhr

Anyone wondering if there is film festival life in the Czech Republic after Karlovy wouldn't have long to wait. Barely two weeks after the closing of the KV International Film festival on July 12 where Czech films did very well in terms of prizes and recognition, another gathering of the Czech film tribes is taking place in the remote southern town of Uherske Hradiste (in the Moravian region near Brno). While this festival is known here as "The Summer Film School", don't let the name fool you - this is far more than a summer workshop for film students, and has all the trappings of a real film festival.

A special award for his "Special contribution to European and world cinema" will be bestowed upon portly Polish actor/director Jerzy Stuhr, (61 this year) one of the most popular and respected figures of the Polish film industry. Stuhr, whose specialty is comedy - but not only - has appeared as an actor in over fifty films since 1971, with all major Polish directors, and has himself directed six features since first stepping behind the cameras with "List of Lovers" in 1995. Stuhr has received numerous awards both as an actor and director in Poland and at major festivals around the globe.

The "Letne Filmove Skola" did start out as a kind of training ground for film students some 34 years ago under the tutelage Jiri Kralik, head of the Czech Association of Film Clubs, but has matured into a legit International film festival in its own right. A glance at the program is enough to convey the picture. By sections the 2008 lineup is as follows:

1) Films and Magic,; A retrospective of the works of four major off-beat directors, Juraj Jakubisko, Jan Shvankmeier, Julio Medem, and Alejandro Jodorowski.
2) Music of the Silent Film; focus on the musical interpretation which accompanied films without speech.
3) Historical Political Notes; 1938, 1948, 1968 - A collection of Czech films dealing with the German takeover of 1938 following the 1938 nefarious Munich Declaration which sold Czechoslovakia down the river to Hitler, the Communist takeover of the republic in 1948, and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, when the Czechs tried to "put a human face on Communism".
4) Totalitarianism and film - A free cycle of talks and projects on the theme of Communist totalitarian power,
5) Film Critics Selection: A wide selection of films from the neighboring "Vyshegrad" countries,
6) Seminars and Workshops for students conducted by leading film makers

Veteran Slovak director Juraj Jakubisko of the new historical blockbuster "Bathory" is the man of the hour in Czecho-Slovakia with interviews and articles on him almost daily in the local press. The colorful action-filled historical epic "Bathory" was shot in an English version as well as Czech, and has already been sold to many territories including the US. Meanwhile the founding father of this festival, Mr. Kralik, has been dismissed from his position as festival director because of "clumsiness in handling organizational problems", such as housing of the guests, translation of the catalogue, etc. However, Kralik along with a number of defectors from the festival are already planning a counter summer festival to be held next year from July 31 to August 6 in another southern town, Pick. It will be called "The Festival on the River".

Alex Deleon, Prague, July 29, 2OO8

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