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TRENČIANSKE TEPLICE ART FILM FESTIVAL CELEBRATES ITS 10TH ANNIVERSARY.

Appetite for non-commercial films sharpens

"AFTER the [political] changes in 1989 we saw a drastic commercial invasion of our TV screens. Advertisements, soulless entertainment programs and rip-offs of foreign game shows began to push back artistic documentaries and short films. The production and existence of these genres was threatened," says Peter Hledík of his motive in coming to the defence of this vanishing form of film art.
With communism defeated and democracy taking over, Czechoslovakia's TVs and cinemas opened to the world. American movies and TV shows flooded the market, satisfying Slovak viewers' hunger for flashier and more risqué entertainment. But the inflow almost dealt a death-blow to the old - in this case non-commercial, artistic films.


PETER Hledík, festival director.
photo: Courtesy of Art Film festival

"AFTER the [political] changes in 1989 we saw a drastic commercial invasion of our TV screens. Advertisements, soulless entertainment programs and rip-offs of foreign game shows began to push back artistic documentaries and short films. The production and existence of these genres was threatened," says Peter Hledík of his motive in coming to the defence of this vanishing form of film art.

With communism defeated and democracy taking over, Czechoslovakia's TVs and cinemas opened to the world. American movies and TV shows flooded the market, satisfying Slovak viewers' hunger for flashier and more risqué entertainment. But the inflow almost dealt a death-blow to the old - in this case non-commercial, artistic films.

In order to ensure the survival of such films, Hledík and his colleagues from the Baroque Film association came up with the idea of organising an Art Film Festival in the western Slovak town of Trenčianske Teplice, aimed at presenting contemporary international and local films about art and artists.

"What we offer the viewer are creative, provocative films, films that enrich the 'thought-world' of people today. Films that cling to the best European artistic traditions," says Hledík, director of the annual festival, adding that few such festivals are held in the world.

"A festival similar to ours is held in Montreal [Canada]. Its selection of films, though, is different. It screens more films but focuses less on quality. Many other world festivals also devote special sections to art films."

Opening June 21 and closing nine days later, the Art Film Festival's 10th annual staging will screen over 130 films made across the world during the last two years. Along with British, French, German, Austrian and American productions, the selection also introduces lesser-known cinematography from Denmark, Holland, Ireland and Scotland.


FRENCH film The Travelling Birds starts at 22:00 on June 25.
photo: Courtesy of Art Film festival

Around 40 films will compete in three categories: Art Fiction, Artefacts and On the Road. The first two include feature-length fiction films, with emphasis on new film techniques, and documentaries about art and artists, respectively. The third section offers space to student works. Non-competing films are categorised according to the country of production, into French, British, Danish, Italian, Hungarian, Dutch, Czech and Slovak sections. A special 'Art Film Fest' section will screen films recently made by renowned directors and already awarded at global festivals.

The separate section for Slovak film offers a selection of the best titles made over the last decade, such as Martin Šulík's feature-length movies Garden and Landscape, as well as two Pavol Barabáš documentaries, Mustang and 118 Days in Ice Captivity. Slovakia will compete with other countries only in the student section.

Since the festival's launch in 1993 its mission has gradually taken shape. In the beginning organisers simply focused on films about art and artists, introducing cultural groups, and discussing music, architecture, theatre and fine art. Today the organisers are more demanding. They search for movies of high quality in both content and form, films which are not driven by viewer tastes, and which offer "an authentic artistic testimony to the world we live in".

But Hledík says you don't have to be a film student to enjoy the selection. "The fact we select high-quality films doesn't mean that we show films only for a narrow group of film enthusiasts. On the contrary - we just select films which won't appear through ordinary distribution networks but are still very attractive, for instance short movies."

Following a festival tradition, the organisers will present awards to actors who have significantly influenced world cinematography. The Actor's Mission award will go to Italian actress Ornella Muti, Czech comedian Bolek Polívka and Slovak actress Božidara Turzonovová, who will fix the awards with their names to the Trenčianske Teplice Bridge of Fame during the festival. Previous years saw stars awarded and present at the festival such as Gina Lollobrigida, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Michele Placido and Sophia Loren.

The fact the festival is already marking its 10th annual holding, organisers say, proves that society still understands film as an art form, rather than just a source of entertainment. While 400 viewers took in the first annual, last year's festival saw the number climb to 40,000.


ORNELLA Muti will recieve an award
photo: Courtesy of Art Film festival

"Slovak viewers have very few opportunities to get to know cinematography in all its range and variety. Some may not even be aware what interesting films are being made in the world, as well as here. As interest in artistic documentaries increases around the world, the same awaits Slovakia," Hledík says.

What: Art Film festival
Where: Trenčianske Teplice (14 kilometers north-east of Trenčín), in local cinemas Kúpeľná dvorana, Prameň and Amphitheatre.
When: June 21-29.
Tickets: One-day ticket Sk50, festival pass Sk400.
Tel: 02/5441-9480 (1).
Movies will be shown in their original versions with simultaneous English and Slovak subtitles.
For more information on the festival and programme go to www.artfilmsk (also in English).

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