53rd Krakow Film Festival
Poland, May 26 - June 2 2013
Over more than half of its 53 year history, the Krakow Film Festival has taken place during the socialist era. During this time the festival was practically closed to the general audience.
“Officially it was a public event but in practise it was almost impossible for the normal people to get tickets. The audience consisted of international and Polish professionals. But at least for the professionals the festival offered a window to the outside world”, says Krzysztof Gierat, the festival director.
At 58, Gierat is five years the festival’s senior. As a student in the 70s he could only dream of watching movies at the festival. He was first able to attend when he started running the Cinema Mikro in 1984. Mikro is still one of the festival venues.
“In the late 80s I was young and for me it was an exciting time. Behind censorship we fought against the politics with cinema”, Gierat reminisces with nostalgia.
Interestingly, during the 80s, the Krakow festival had close contacts with the Oberhausen festival in West Germany but not with the Leipzig festival in East Germany. Krakow’s combination of shorts and documentaries now resembles the programme of Leipzig than Oberhausen which is ostensibly a dedicated short film festival.
Since the late 80’s Gierat has worked for the festival in several capacities: as programmer, press officer and — for the last 13 years — director. The end of the socialist period meant a rebirth for the festival and Gierat has been involved throughout the festival’s evolution into one of the most important events for short film and — increasingly — documentary features.
“After the fall of communism the festival was in a crisis. I thought it would end altogether. At first it lasted only five days and there were just two theatres. There was only the international competition for short films. We started to grow it slowly”, Gierat explains.
In the late 90’s the national competition was started. Seven years ago the feature and mid-length documentaries got their own competition. “The maximum length for competition documentaries had been growing to 50 minutes and it didn’t make any sense to keep them in the short competition”, says Gierat. Now the festival runs for eight days on eight screens. It’s organised by the Krakow Film Foundation that was started ten years ago by Gierat and others involved with the festival.
“The foundation’s purpose, alongside organising the festival, is to promote Polish shorts and documentaries abroad”, Gierat points out.
For the last three years the Fipresci jury has judged the documentary competition. This year a new competition was started for music documentaries. Sidebar programs this year included a retrospective of animated films by Paul Driessen, who received the festival’s highest accolade the Dragon of Dragons for his body of work, and a focus on Switzerland. (Harri Römpötti)
Krakow Film Festival: www.krakowfilmfestival.pl