Swedish drama 'Charter' and U.S. comedy 'Dinner in America' win at Febiofest

Films including a tragic love story starring Colin Firth, a strange sci-fi flick, a Karel Gott doc, and dark Stalin-era drama will hit local screens.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 24.09.2021 17:00 (updated on 24.09.2021)

Awards for this year’s Febiofest were given out at a gala screening last night at Slovanský dům. The festival continues with its final Prague screenings today, Sept. 24, Screenings continue in other Czech cities until Oct. 9.

The winner of the main competition was the Swedish-Danish-Norwegian film “Charter” about a mother locked in custody dispute over her children. Director Amanda Kernell accepted the award via video, as she was unable to arrive in person due to the pandemic. This was the director’s second feature film. It has also won several awards in Sweden, and was submitted to the Oscars for Best International Feature Film, but was not nominated.

“The film ‘Charter’ tells a not at all unusual story, but it is masterfully crafted. It maintains tension and brings a new impulse at every step, a new perspective that pushes us through the film to the last moment,” the jury said.  

A special jury mention went to the film “Listen,” about a Portuguese family of five living in the outskirts of London, facing troubles once the hearing aid of one of the children breaks.

This was the second year of the festival’s comedy competition. The U.S. independent film “Dinner in America” was selected by an audience jury. The film, starring Kyle Gallner and Emily Skeggs as a punk rocker on the run and an awkward young woman who tags along, won the jury over for its unusual but touching outsider love story.

Jury honorary chairman Michael Kocáb praised the rock setting. Film writer and director Adam Carter Rehmeier via video said he was glad the story connected with a European audience.

The Amnesty International Febiofest Award 2021 went to “Exile.” An engineer from Kosovo living in Germany faces threats, but has to sort out what is real ad what is simply his own paranoia. A Special Mention went to “Any Day Now,” about an Iranian family in Finland. It was honored because it was family friendly, and a good starting point for discussing issues with young viewers.

The gala evening concluded with a screening of the film “The Father.” Lead actor Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for his performance as a man struggling with dementia. Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton also won for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Several films from the festival will soon be in Czech cinemas. The opening film “Rifkin's Festival,” directed by Woody Allen, hits screens Sept. 30. The comedy with Wallace Shawn, Gina Gershon, and Louis Garrel, is set at a film festival and filled with references to classic films. Cinephiles may appreciate it more than those who aren’t familiar with the classic works of Bergman, Buñuel, Godard, and Truffaut, which are parodied in dream sequences.

“Supernova,” also hitting cinemas Sept. 30, has Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as a middle-aged couple dealing with a medical issue faced by one of them. They take a road trip while making plans for how to deal with the future. Complex emotional performances by top actors highlight the film.

One of the festival’s most unusual entries was “Last and First Men,” the only film directed by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, known for his work on “Sicario,” “Arrival,” and “Mandy,” among other films.

He passed away suddenly in 2018 leaving the film incomplete, but it has now been finished posthumously. The 70-minute films consists almost entirely of black-and-white shots of crumpling Brutalist-style war monuments in former Yugoslavia. Actress Tilda Swinton narrates with passages from Olaf Stapledon’s sci-fi story “Last and First Men,” set 2 billion years in the future.

Cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen was one of the festival’s guests. He explained that filming took place in 2015, but completion was delayed due to Jóhannsson’s commitments to compose soundtracks.

A 90-minute work cut with a temporary score made of unused music Jóhannsson wrote for “Blade Runner 2049” and other outtakes had been completed when Jóhannsson died.

The film was then trimmed a bit more to make it coherent. Music written by Jóhannsson specifically for this film was completed by Yair Elazar Glotman and recorded. The film opened in Czech art house cinemas on Sept. 23. Fans of truly offbeat cinema should seek it out.

Martina Babišová and Jiří Langmajer in
Martina Babišová and Jiří Langmajer in "Lifeline." (Photo: CinemArt)

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Several Czech productions that will soon be in theaters were showcased. Director Rudolf Havlík’s latest film “Lifeline” (Minuta věčnosti) shows a father and daughter trying to reconcile while on a hiking trip in Iceland. Jiří Langmajer and Martina Babišová star in this scenic drama, which will be released Sept. 30.

A documentary on the late singer Karel Gott called “Karel” will be released Oct. 7. The film takes people behind the scenes at concerts and also shows his family life and work as a painter.

A claustrophobic look at the dark days under Stalinism can be found in “Kryštof.” A man about to become a monk winds up having to run for his life when the hard-line Czechoslovak regime decides to shut down religious institutions.

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Mikuláš Bukovjan in “Kryštof.” (Photo: Bontonfilm)
Mikuláš Bukovjan in “Kryštof.” (Photo: Bontonfilm)

Kryštof and the monks at his monastery near the German border had been smuggling people to the west, and the police are after Kryštof in particular. The film counts on people having some knowledge of the politics of the era, as the chase doesn’t slow down for explanations. It hits screens Oct. 21.

Festival organizer Fero Fenič at the end of award ceremony said that attendance numbers for this edition of the festival were much higher than for last year but still below the pre-pandemic figures. He hoped the pandemic would subside so that the next festival can be held under normal conditions in its regular spring-time slot.  

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