The History of the Art Film Fest

The longest continuously-running film festival in Slovakia, the Artfilm Film Festival was established in 1993, the same year in which the Slovak Republic was founded.
The Artfilm tradition came into being thanks to the initiative of two film directors: the festival’s long-time artistic director, Peter Hledík, and Vladimír Štric, who worked as program director until 2004. And since the festival’s earliest developments, Slovak actress Božidara Turzonovová has chaired festival committee.
According to Hledík, the festival’s founding was connected to its time. Due to the closing of Koliba Studios right at the start of the 1990s, funding for Slovak cinema rapidly dried up, and films stopped being made. Artfilm wanted to make up for this. The first annual festival commenced on 14 June, 1993 in Trenčianske Teplice, under the auspices of UNESCO. It was an intimate presentation of documentary films, and it screened in just one cinema for two hundred viewers.
This first festival was dedicated to films about the baroque period, because 1992 had been the international year of the baroque, resulting in many films being shot on this subject. In reaction to the break-up of Czechoslovakia, the organizers decided to create a comprehensive overview of documentary film work throughout the Czechoslovak era. The first year’s guest star was British avant-garde filmmaker Peter Greenaway.
As time went on, the festival’s organizers became increasingly aware that limiting the festival to documentaries was unnecessary, and they consequently widened its scope. In 1995 came the first major turning point in the festival’s history: its focus shifted to a presentation of films concerning art and artists. It was also that year when the first Actor’s Mission Award was bestowed, to Italian actor Franco Nero. And to this day, nearly forty Slovak, Czech and international performers have arrived to accept this prestigious award, including world-famous stars such as Geraldine Chaplin, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Gina Lollobrigida, Catherine Deneuve and Ornella Muti, and Slovak and Czech performers including Jozef Kroner, Emília Vášáryová, Ladislav Chudík, Jiří Bartoška, Iva Janžurová and Bolek Polívka.
The competition of feature films was introduced to the programme in 1997, as was the expansion of the festival to include screenings in Trenčín.
In 2001, Artfilm started awarding a variety of national and international film professionals as well, with the Golden Camera, for their notable contributions to the world of cinema. The prize has been received by more than twenty artists, among them Martin Hollý, Dušan Hanák, Juraj Jakubisko, Andrzej Wajda and Miklós Jancsó.
In 2002 Artfilm began to define itself as a festival of film artistry, and since then it has focused on feature films from around the world. 2002 also saw the arrival of the popular open-air cinema – the Čadík Brothers’ Travelling Cinematograph.
Several more festival landmarks took place in 2007. First of all, it celebrated its 15
th anniversary, for a cumulative total of 105 festival days, and having screened over 1500 feature-length, medium-length, and short fiction films, as well as animated, documentary, and experimental works. It was also in this year that the number of festival cinemas increased, and Peter Hledík became the director of the Actor’s Mission Award.
In 2009 so far, Peter Nágel has assumed the role of program director, and Artfilm has changed its name to Art Film Fest.

What started as an intimate gathering of filmmakers and fans has over the course of the years become one of the most prominent cultural events in Slovakia.
Thanks to the festival’s expansion into Trenčín, Artfilm has also drawn new audiences.
The number of visitors grows each year. While 1993’s Artfilm was attended by a modest 400 guests, four years later attendance levels surpassed 15 000 film fans. In 2007, Artfilm welcomed close to 25 000 visitors, and last year this number rose to nearly 30 000.
From its onset Artfilm has distinguished itself with the intimate atmosphere of Trenčianske Teplice and its thermal spas. As at any film festival, quality films and interesting personalities go without saying, but Artfilm’s tremendous asset is its truly familial atmosphere, allowing visitors to meet and converse with festival guests on the streets of Trenčianske
Teplice.