15th T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival, Wroclaw

Poland, July 23 - August 2 2015

The jury

Demetrios Matheou (Great Britain), Rebecca Harkins-Cross (Australia), Piotr Kletowski (Poland)

Awarded films

The T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival, as its name suggests, sets sights on an ambitious goal: to explore independent and arthouse cinema’s new frontiers. Now in its 15th year, the Polish festival may be the younger sibling of Kraków and Warsaw, but it’s rapidly become one of the country’s largest and most popular. New Horizons’ adventurous programming and vibrant atmosphere attracts audiences from across Poland and wider Europe.

Since 2006 New Horizons has been held in Wroclaw, Poland’s fourth largest city and the European Capital of Culture in 2016. Screenings take place in the three-storey, nine-screen multiplex Nowe Horyzonty (one of the largest arthouse cinemas in Europe) in the city centre, as well as free nightly open-air screenings in the picturesque Town Square.

Director Roman Gutek (of distributor Gutek Films) and Artistic Director Joanna Lapinska presented over 340 films this year, with 217 features and five world premieres. With a program of retrospectives, regional focuses, classics, shorts and themed sections (self portraits and film costuming), as well as a strong program of contemporary world cinema, the horizons charted are diverse. Awards are presented in five categories: the New Horizons International Competition, Films on Art, Polish Shorts, European Shorts and the Zoom Competition (for local filmmakers from Wroclaw and Lower Silesia).

This year’s International Competition featured 12 entries, with films by both debut directors and seasoned auteurs from across the globe. The main jury awarded the Grand Prize (€20,000 and guaranteed distribution in Poland) to Belgian director Gust van den Berghe for Lucifer, his final film in a religion-themed trilogy, in which the angel takes a pit stop in Mexico on his journey from heaven to hell and wreaks havoc on the family who take him in. The jury made special mention of Cuban director Carlos M. Quintela’s The Project of the Century, a black-and-white film that blends documentary and fiction in its story of three generations of a dysfunctional family living in the shadow of Cuba’s first nuclear plant – a failed dream scrapped when the Soviet Union disbanded.

The FIPRESCI Prize was awarded to Miguel Gomes’ six-hour epic trilogy Arabian Nights, a series of films that confront the contemporary financial crisis in Portugal through storytelling at once imaginative, playful and challenging, elevating everyday lives to the level of myth. The Audience Award went to Austrian horror film Goodnight Mommy, directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, which plays with genre conventions of both the murderous matriarch and evil offspring.

The Panorama and ALE KINO+ sections present a wide selection of world cinema from the past 12 months, with offerings from the likes of Japan’s Kore-eda Hirokazu (Our Little Sister), France’s Gaspar Noé (Love), Italy’s Nanni Moretti (My Mother), the Philippines’ Lav Diaz (From What Is Before), Canada’s Guy Maddin (The Forbidden Room) and the USA’s Abel Ferrara (Pasolini), as well as Cannes favourites Son of Saul (Hungarian director László Nemes’ feature debut, which won the Grand Prix Award) and the highly-lauded martial arts film The Assassin (which won Best Director for Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao-Hsien).

This year’s main retrospective was French New Wave director Philippe Garrel, whose films are often highly autobiographical and haunted by the failure of May ’68. These range from the experimental silent film Le révélateur (1968), to romantic dramas like J’entends plus la guitare (I Can No Longer Hear The Guitar, 1991), to his films starring former lovers Nico (Cristal Cradle / Le berceau de cristal, 1976; The Inner Scar / La cicatrice intérieur, 1972) and Jean Seberg (Les hautes solitudes, 1974).

Each year the festival also presents regional focuses on cinema from a neighbouring country. In 2015 they presented 21 films from across Lithuania’s film history, in collaboration with the Lithuanian Film Centre, as well as a retrospective of slow filmmaker Šaru¯nas Bartas (a festival guest). The Polish retrospective looked at the work of screenwriter and director Tadeusz Konwicki, whose early work is often thought to be a precursor to the French New Wave.

New Horizons creates a vibrant culture around the films themselves that fosters community, engagement and discussion. Each night the festival club Arsenal comes alive once screenings end. This includes a nightly music program of artists and DJs, headlined this year by Lebanese chanteuse Yasmine Hamdan and underground American rock group Pere Ubu. (Rebecca Harkins-Cross)

T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival, Wroclaw: