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Every summer since 1946, the Czech Republic's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has welcomed guests with great cinema and homey goulash.

Karlovy Vary: Europe’s most welcoming film festival

Every summer since 1946, Central and Eastern Europe’s biggest A-list film festival has welcomed guests with great cinema and homey goulash. The picturesque town of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic provides a venue for many directors to sit back and actually enjoy the films on show.

Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa (Maidan) described the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival as the “cherry on the cake for my year. Venice and Cannes are for work – here, I relax!” With over 150 films to relax to, including world premieres and the best of the Cannes, Berlin and Sundance Festivals, there is plenty of choice.

Filmmaker Jonas Carpignano (Mediterranea) finds the film festival circuit insular at times. But at Karlovy Vary, the larger number of students and civilians in the audience allows filmmakers to see first-hand which films really leave an impression. “You realize how the real world responds to the movies that are out there. That’s one thing I really appreciate about this festival.”

This year, it was Vaclav Kadrnka‘s Little Crusader taking home the Grand Prix Crystal Globe of the KVIFF’s 52nd edition, a psychological drama starring Karel Roden (Hellboy) as a knight who must confront his inner fears when his son goes missing. The last Crystal Globe to go to a Czech film was Petr Zelenka’s Year of The Devil in 2002.

It was The Cakemaker by Israeli filmmaker Ofir Raul Graizer that arguably created the biggest buzz however, with a standing ovation the festival’s artistic director Karel Och called “unforgettable”. The film follows the story of Thomas, a German baker, who begins an affair with Israeli businessman Oren. After Oren dies, Thomas goes to meet his lover’s wife. The Cakemaker was inspired by a true story, said Graizer.

“I knew a person who had a double life, he had a wife and children and secret lovers on the side”, he explained. “One day I was told by his wife that he had died. I knew I had to make a film about this because it related to questions that have always been essential for me: questions of hiding my identity, living between different worlds, secular and religious, gay and straight, and other things.”

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