With apologies to Ernest Hemingway and "A Moveable Feast," you can call this one a Moveable Fest. The Czech That Film Festival, which begins five days of screening in Los Angeles on Friday, is a festival on the go, hitting three cities before stopping in L.A. with another seven on the itinerary afterwards.
From the 1968 Oscar winner “Closely Watched Trains” to last year’s acclaimed Oscar entry “In the Shadow,” and from 1964 Czech musical “The Hop Pickers” to the 2011 rotoscope-animated noir “Alois Nebel,” the festival is taking a cross-section of Czech cinema around the country, with a L.A. stop a collaboration with the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
This is the second year for a touring festival of Czech films, but its first under the new Czech That Film title, and the most ambitious, with 17 films spread out across 11 American cities between April 24 and July 14.
The festival has already been to Salt Lake City, San Jose and Phoenix; after L.A., it will stop in Denver, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco in May, Portland and Chicago in June and New York and Seattle in July. (Some dates will overlap, with the fest showing different films in two cities simultaneously.)
New York is the only city that will get “Closely Watched Trains,” one of only two Oscar winners from either the current Czech Republic or the former Czechoslovakia. (Czechoslovakia had three Best Foreign Language Film nominees between 1967 and 1969, while the Czech Republic had three between 1996 and 2003, including the 1996 winner “Kolya.”)
But the Los Angeles screenings, which will take place on May 10, 11, 16 and 20 and June 3 at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood, will include a June 3 screening of David Ondricek’s “In the Shadow,” a stylish and haunting crime drama that uses a film noir look and feel to tell a story set in the Soviet-dominated, paranoia-wracked Czechoslovakia of the early 1950s.
Ondricek’s film was the Czech Republic’s official Oscar submission last year – and while many observers of the category felt that the shortlist did a good job of singling out many of the most impressive films in the record field of 71, “In the Shadow” was one of the films most often mentioned as a deserving entry that was overlooked.
Ondricek, the son of Oscar-winning cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek (“Amadeus”), will be on hand at the Wilder Theater for a Q&A following the screening of his film.
Other films screening in Los Angeles will including the opening-night attraction, “Flower Buds” (right), a character-driven story about the struggles of a family in an impoverished town. The drama won four 2011 Czech Lions, that country’s version of the Oscars. Director Zdenek Jirasky will attend and participate in a post-screening Q&A and afterparty.
Also screening at the Wilder: “Gypsy” and “Made in Ash,” the Slovak Oscar entries in 2011 and 2012, respectively; the comedies “Polski Film” and “Signal”; and Zuzana Liova’s “The House,” a drama about generational conflict in the vein of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach.
The films, said the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s Shannon Kelley, are “all generously ladled with the wry humor that marks the works as distinctly Czech.”
Czech That Film is sponsored by Staropramen and organized by the Czech Center New York, the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Los Angeles and the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, D.C.
The full schedule and additional information is available at www.czechthatfilm.com.