Scaled-down Czech film festival opens in empty auditorium

PRAGUE (Reuters) - A Czech film festival disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic unveiled a scaled-down programme of movies on Friday with an opening ceremony in an empty auditorium and a star-free red carpet.

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, central and eastern Europe’s leading movie extravaganza, announced in April it was cancelling its main events as the novel coronavirus shuttered cinemas and mass gatherings.

Restrictions have since eased, allowing the festival’s president, actor Jiri Bartoska, to unveil a list of 16 foreign and domestic films on Friday.

He gave his speech in the festival’s main venue, with the red carpet laid out at the entrance but no guests around to walk on it this year.

The event usually draws A-list celebrities, dozens of films and hundreds of fans to the screening rooms in the spa town of Karlovy Vary from June to July.

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This year organisers said the 16 films will instead be screened in 96 cinemas across the country.

“Each year at this moment, we present the Crystal Globe (the festival’s award) and this year it belongs to you, cinema managers and spectators,” Bartoska said in the speech that was recorded to be screened at the cinemas before each film.

“This year, (the festival) goes to you, next year you come to us,” he added.

Among this year’s films are South Africa’s “Moffie” which tells the tale of an army conscript attracted to a fellow soldier, and French/German production “Proxima”, about an astronaut preparing for her mission while caring for her young daughter.

Organisers say the full festival, that was founded in 1946, will return in 2021.

Reporting by David W. Cerny; Writing by Robert Muller, Editing by Michael Kahn and Andrew Heavens