PRAGUE -- An international film festival in the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary kicked off Friday amid controversy following a protest by Ukraine over the screening of a Russian film alongside Ukrainian-made movies.
Prior to the start of the 56th edition of the festival, several leading Ukrainian filmmakers along with Ukraine’s ambassador to Prague protested the scheduled screening of “Captain Volkonogov Escaped.”
Ukrainian Ambassador Yevhen Perebyinis said in an open letter that it would be “inhuman" to screen Ukrainian films alongside a Russian movie made with support from Russia's Culture Ministry at a time when Russian troops had “committed atrocities" during their invasion of his country.
Organizers said they consider the Russian movie - whose world premiere was at last year’s Venice Film Festival - as being indirectly critical of the current Russian leadership.
Four Ukrainian films and eight other nearly-completed movies produced or co-produced by Ukraine will also be screened at the festival.
After being cancelled in 2020 and delayed in 2021 due to the pandemic, this year's festival will culminate in a ceremony to honor Australian Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush for his contribution to world cinema.
Rush won an Academy Award for actor in a leading role in “Shine” in 1997. Beside that movie, the festival will also screen his movies “The King's Speech” and “Quills.”
Organizers will also honor U.S. Oscar-winning actor and producer Benicio Del Toro and Czech actor Bolek Polivka.
The festival runs through July 9. The grand jury will consider 12 movies for the top prize, the Crystal Globe.