The 57th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival got off to a star-studded start Friday evening, with the opening ceremony also including political commentary from Czech actor and TV presenter Marek Eben.

“Dear foreign visitors, welcome to the Czech Republic,” he said at the start of the event before highlighting that since the creation of his country, it has “never sought to conquer the territory of another state,” according to a translation provided via headphones. He added: “The small territory we have is perfectly enough for us.”

The comment was seen as a remark about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which was on many attendees’ minds during last year’s edition of the fest. The host then also seemed to make a reference to Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland and the former Czechoslovakia, saying his country had never invaded Germany or Poland.

Eben later, in his opening monologue, also noted that this year’s Karlovy Vary competition consists of 11 instead of 12 competition films. A few days before the competition announcement, the Chinese government banned Chinese movies from screening in the Czech Republic, he said, calling it an “order” from Beijing.

The Chinese film in question is Clap Your Hands from director Zhu Jie. It centers on a working-class woman taking care of her daughter who has a rare bone disease.

But Eban emphasized that Beijing’s intervention was also proof for how influential movies can be. “It just shows the strength of film,” Eben said. “It is similar to diplomacy.”


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