Marienbad Film Festival: Celebrating artistic and experimental cinema

The eighth edition of the festival, taking place in the West Bohemian spa town, introduces new competitive sections this year. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 07.07.2023 16:00:00 (updated on 07.07.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

In addition to KVIFF, which ends tomorrow, there is another international film festival in a spa town in West Bohemia. The eighth edition of the Marienbad Film Festival runs from July 13 to 17 in the center of Mariánské Lázně. This festival is about something different, as it is dedicated to experimental and independent films, marginal forms of cinema, contemporary moving images, and artistic and challenging works.

This year’s theme is "you saw nothing," and the festival will focus on a fundamental human sense: sight, both literally and metaphorically. The intention is to ask questions like: What does it mean to truly see? Can we mediate the vision of reality or the cinematic experience at all? What are the limits of mediated experience, and what role can film play in collective memory?

Two competitive sections

A three-member international jury will award prizes in the field of experimental film and new audiovisual essay writing.

"The biggest news is that Marienbad is returning to the competition format and establishing two competition sections. Forum Marienbad: Main Competition focuses on films of an experimental nature, and Forum Marienbad: Audiovisual Essays is a section whose goal is the presentation of videographic film studies and the support of audiovisual essayists," festival director Zuzana Stejskalová said.

"The thematic framework of the program this year is defined by the 1959 experimental French film Hiroshima mon amour, which will be shown in a newly restored version as part of a long-term retrospective of director Alain Resnais," program director Tomáš Vobořil said.

The Selection section, the dramaturgical backbone of the festival, will present guests from various contexts of film experimentation in the form of masterclasses, retrospectives, and site-specific projects. The Patterns section will showcase a selection of feature films from history and the present by established filmmakers that bring experimentation into the mainstream of art cinema.

The festival will open with Věra Chytilová's 1967 classic Daisies (Sedmikrásky). Other films shown in retrospect include Jan Němec's once-banned Czech new wave film A Report on the Party and the Guests (O slavnosti a hostech).

Last Year at Marienbad. Photo: Cineriz
Last Year at Marienbad. Photo: Cineriz

Several musical guests to perform

The film program freely intermingles with music projects in the Emotions section. The boundaries between audiovisual performances and concerts are becoming thinner every year. Several artists will perform as part of it, experimenting with sound or combining music with projections equally.

One special musical guest this year will be sound artist Alvin Curran, who will play piano at the spa town’s colonnade on July 15. He appeared at last year’s festival, but only via a video link to discuss a documentary about his avant-garde music and experiences in Rome.

Alvin Curran appeared last year via video. Photo: Marienbad Film Festival
Alvin Curran appeared last year via video. Photo: Marienbad Film Festival

The program will expand to the city center and, in addition to the Forest Mill (Lesní mlýn), it will also return to the town’s Municipal Theater, the Municipal Museum, and the Main Colonnade.

Mariánské Lázně and Karlovy Vary used to run a joint festival, and in the first year, 1946, the bulk of the films were shown in Mariánské Lázně. However, after 1949, screenings there stopped. The festival continued in Karlovy Vary, and this year marks its 57th edition. If the numbering seems off, that is because for a while it was held every other year, alternating with a festival in Moscow.

The new festival in Mariánské Lázně began in 2016 and is not technically related to the editions from the 1940s. More information about the current edition can be found on Facebook and the festival's website.

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