13rd T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival

Poland, July 18 - July 28 2013

The jury

Neil Young (UK), István Szathmáry (Hungary), Błażej Hrapkowicz (Poland)

Awarded films

Confidently proclaiming itself “the largest film event in Poland”, the 13th New Horizons International Film Festival — sponsored by T-Mobile — ran from 18 to 28 July in the country’s fourth-biggest city, Wroclaw. This historic and cosmopolitan home of some 600,000 residents will in 2016 be one of the European Union’s two Capitals of Culture — along with another familiar name from the world of film festivals, San Sebastián in Spain. But while the latter event has entered its sixth decade, New Horizons, which has been held in Wroclaw for the last eight renewals, is relatively speaking a new kid on the block. So it’s impressive that in less than a decade, the festival, under the directorship of Roman Gutek, has carved a definite niche in the midsummer calendar, not just for international guests but also for local residents — whose support for Artistic Director Joanna Lapinska’s eclectic and often edgy programme is impressively ardent.

This year saw the festival consolidate its indoor screenings into one single venue: the three-floor, nine screen Nowe Horyzonty in the city centre. Previously a regular multiplex known as the Helios, the cinema is the epicentre of Gutek’s efforts to turn Wroclaw into a central European hive of cinema culture. Its year-round programme is dominated by artistic, adventurous fare a long way removed from the Hollywood blockbusters one might expect in a venue of such size and architecture.

The fourth edition of a spinoff American Film Festival will be held at the cinema in October, but it’s T-Mobile New Horizons which is the chief focus of local, national and international attention. In the vein of longer-established events at Rotterdam, Gothenburg and Lisbon, the festival offers a packed programme of independent-minded fare featuring new and old features, shorts, retrospectives, tributes, thematically-organised strands and a wide range of ‘parallel’ events from live music to lectures, gallery installations, photography exhibits and activities for children. In addition there is a three-day industry-oriented event, Polish Days, featuring screenings of selected new Polish films for press and industry delegates, plus pitching sessions and a ‘Work In Progress’ element.

This year saw just under 200 feature-length films included in the programme, with a free outdoor screening every night in the city’s large and picturesque market square, known as Rynek. 13 films were selected for the most prestigious element of the festival, the International Competition with the Grand Prix carrying a cash prize of €20,000. A five-strong jury headed by Béla Tarr honoured Russia’s Alexei Fedorchenko for his portmanteau charmer Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari (Nebesnye zheny lugovykh mari). The Grand Prix winner is guaranteed distribution in Poland — Gutek’s company Gutek Film is a major distributor, as well as being an official festival partner — and the same applies to the winner of the FIPRESCI award and also the laureate in the Films On Art sidebar.

Other sections included a comprehensive tribute to the maverick Polish animator-turned-director Walerian Borowczyk; a spotlight on underground Russian cinema of the past decade (many of which are almost impossible to see outside their homeland); a guide to the “French neobaroque” comprising cult favourites from Beineix, Besson and 2012 New Horizons guest Leos Carax; midnight movies with a cyberpunk theme; and a strand dedicated to the Wagner-related films of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg. The biggest section of the festival, Panorama, offered a generous survey of world cinema from the previous twelve months, studded with award-winners from Berlin, Cannes and Venice. (Neil Young)

T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival: www.nowehoryzonty.pl