55th Krakow Film Festival

Poland, May 31 - June 7 2015

The jury

Ulrich Wimmeroth (Germany), Ohad Landesman (Israel), Maarek Hendrykowski (Poland)

Awarded films

The Krakow Film Festival is not only the oldest film festival in Poland, organized every year since 1961, but also one of the oldest film events dedicated to documentary, animated and short fiction films in Europe. The festival tends to favour documentary films, and it was in this festival that outstanding Polish documentarists such as Krzysztof Kieslowski, Wojciech Wiszniewski, and Marcel Lozinski began their career.

The documentary program in this year’s 55th edition of the festival was especially strong, and included twenty films, all evolving around the subject of otherness, and each conceiving it in different ways. The opening film of the festival, for example, was The Dybbuk: A Tale of Wandering Souls, directed by Krzysztof Kopczynski. This documentary takes place in Uman, a sacred city for Jews in the Ukraine, and shows the tensions that appear between thousands of Hasidic pilgrims who come there every year to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and the city locals. Other films in the competition focused on topics such as disability, loneliness, and intolerance. The biggest winner was the Polish filmmaker Karolina Bielawska, who received the Golden Horn and three other awards for her documentary Call Me Marianna, an extremely sensitive and intense portrayal of gender transformation. The Silver Horn in the best feature-length documentary was granted to another Polish filmmaker, Agnieszka Zwiefka, for The Queen of Silence, an inspiring story of a deaf gypsy girl in Poland who bravely transcendes her disability by retreating to Bollywood music and dance in her imagination. The FIPRESCI jury decided to grant the prize to Erinnisse and Patryk Rebisz’s American documentary Shoulder The Lion, which expresses in different innovative ways the subjective experience of characters who lost essential parts of their being in cataclysmic events.

The Dragon of Dragons, an international life-achievement award that was given in previous years to masters such as Jan Svankmajer, Werner Herzog or Albert Maysles, went this year to the Estonian animator Priit Pärn. An award-winning illustrator, filmmaker and lecturer, Pärn is a well-known figure in animation with a unique and outstanding visual style. His films often combine black humor, surrealism and controversial sex politics, and deal with difficult political and social issues in times of Communism. The festival included a thorough retrospective of his work along with a master class he conducted, providing a rare glimpse into this important figure in animation history. 

After acquainting the audience with the national cinemas of Israel, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Great Britain in previous years, the focus this year moved east to Lithuania, whose small but fascinating cinema has just began to revive. Both documentary and short films from Lithuania have been shown, including Giedre Žickyte’s wonderful Master and Tatyana, which was one of the highlights of the documentary competition as well. The film screenings were complemented by an industry conference, in which representatives of the Lithuanian film industry participated. 

The festival also took advantage of the warm weather during the early summer nights and organized another edition of the annual program Sounds of Music in the open-air cinema Kino Pod Wawelem. This non-competing section, curated by Piotr Metz, included some of the best music films of all time, such as Miloš Forman’s Hair, Wim Wenders’s Buena Vista Social Club or Alan Parker’s The Wall, all shown with no admission cost and with the pastoral Wawel Castle in the background. (Ohad Landesman)

Krakow Film Festival: www.kff.com.pl