6th OFF PLUS CAMERA International Festival of Independent Cinema

Poland, April 12 - April 21 2013

The jury

Barbara Kosecka (Poland), Alexander Yanakiev (Bulgaria), Susanne Schuetz (Germany)

Awarded films

Although distilling “independent” cinema from the wide array of contemporary production variants proves more than difficult sometimes, the festivals inspired by a successful Sundance example are blossoming, with Poland’s Off Plus Camera being one of the ambitious Eastern European initiatives. The festival was founded in 2008 in Krakow, presumably the hottest tourist spot in Poland, and is held in the (usually) welcoming spring weeks of April. The attractive festival venues are small arthouse theatres located in the very centre of the Old Town, close to the city’s famous monuments, as well as in the popular Jewish District.

The most important festival programme is the drama section “Making Way”, featuring twelve debut or second films competing for the Krakow Film Award of US$100,000, with the winner being chosen by an international jury of film professionals. This year’s jury, headed by the established Polish artist Lech Majewski (a filmmaker, painter and opera writer) was apparently torn between films representing solid classic storytelling and ones which “searched for new narrative ways”. As a result, the main prize, which finally went to war drama Manhunt (Oblawa) — the first Polish film ever to win the Krakow Film Award, was preceded by the announcement of three “Special Mentions” honoring boldly visual Upstream Color by Shane Carruth, anarchic Soldate Jeannette by Daniel Hoesl and emotional Ombline by Stephane Cazes during the festival’s closing ceremony. The Award’s purpose is obviously to help finance the winner’s next production, but the author can benefit even more from the fund granted by the PISF (Polish Institute of Film Art) to the amount of a juicy one million Polish zlotys (approximately US$300,000) — if only the author’s next film production takes place in… Poland. Marcin Krzysztalowicz, this year’s Off Plus Camera Polish winner, couldn’t be more lucky.

Since its inception, the festival has also featured the National Competition presenting recent Polish first or second films, similarly judged by an international jury; the Polish Noble Award (sponsored by Noble Bank) of PLN100,000 (US$30,000) went to Baby Blues (Bejbi blues) by Katarzyna Roslaniec, a controversial portrayal of a teenager who decides to have a child (regretfully, none of the Polish Competition winners, including young actors Tomasz Schuchardt and Magdalena Berus, actually appeared on stage to collect their prizes, whilst all the overseas international filmmakers were present).

The other festival sections included, among others, new films from the festival circuit (“Discoveries”), recent American indies (“From the Gut” — a section programmed for Off Plus Camera by Sundance festival selectors), and important films from last year which had failed to reach Polish screens (“Catching Up”) — all chosen according to the somewhat ambiguous criteria of “authorship”, “low budget” and “independence”. (Barbara Kosecka)

International Festival of Independent Cinema Off Plus Camera: www.offcamera.pl