A Cinematic Feast By Martin Blaney

in 22nd Warsaw International Film Festival

by Martin Blaney

Now in its 21st year, the Warsaw International FilmFest opened on October 7 with a gala screening of Wim Wenders’ Cannes competition film Don’t Come Knocking attended by the director and his producer Peter Schwarzkopff and leading Polish film industry figures such as legendary director Andrzej Wajda, producer Dariusz Jablonski, outgoing Minister of Culture Waldemar Dabrowski and Agnieszka Odorowicz, the head of the newly created Polish Film Institute.

Presenting over 130 films from 50 countries over ten days, the FilmFest is recognised by FIAPF and has an International Competition – “New Films, New Directors” – dedicated to first and second features with a jury made up exclusively of film directors.

This year’s International Jury was headed by Polish-born UK director Pawel Pawlikowski ( Summer Of Love) and included Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Pjer Zalica (Days And Hours), Romania’s Cristi Puiu (The Death Of Mr Lazarescu), Turkey’s Yestim Ustaoglu (Waiting For The Clouds) and Polish music clip director Anna Maliszewska.

The lineup of 15 titles competing for the Euros 5,000 Nescafe Grand Prix and Cinemax Award for Best Screenplay includes Rustem Abdrashov’s Rebirth Island (Kaladan Kelgen Kyz) , Jan Cvitkvovic’s Gravehopping (Odgrobadogroba) , Alexei Fedorchenko’s First People On The Moon (Perviye Na Lune) , Erik Poppe’s Hawaii, Oslo , Ognen Svilicic’s Sorry For Kung Fu (Oprosti Za Kung Fu), Maria Prochazkova’s Shark In The Head (Zralok V Hlave), and Mohammad Rasoulof’s Iron Island (Jazireh Ahani) .

The Grand Prix was awarded to the Croatian filmmaker Ognjen Svilicic for his comic drama Sorry For Kung Fu, while Danish first-time filmmaker Jacob Thuesen’s Accused (Anklaget) was named as the winner of the Cinemax Award for Best Screenplay. In addition, the International Jury gave a Special Mention to Alexei Fedorchenko’s mockumentary First People On The Moon , which had received the Best Documentary award in the Horizons sidebar of venice this year.

This edition of Warsaw saw the creation of three new prizes.

Firstly, a FIPRESCI Jury was invited to Warsaw for the first time to view 15 first and second features from Central and Eastern Europe showing in different sections of the programme and awarded the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI Prize) to Srdjan Koljevic’s road movie Red Coloured Grey Truck ( Sivi Kamion Crvene Boje ) which screened in the Discoveries – Visions of Contemporary World sidebar.

In addition, the festival collaborated with one of its sponsors, Nokia, to establish the Nokia Mobile Movie Competition for young Polish filmmakers who were set the task of making a short film on the theme of “A Minute from Life” using the new Nokia N90 smartphone.

A jury composed of film director Juliusz Machulski, cartoon artist Andrzej Mleczko, and MTV programme director Monika Chojnacka gave their award to Piotr Szczepanski’s The Future Of The Polish Film Industry , while the audience award – voted on by public watching the films on Nokia’s website – www.nokia.com.pl/filmy – went to Wojciech Smarzowski’s Warsaw .

Another prize category created this year was connected with the CentEast Market – Warsaw Screenings event which ran parallel with the Filmfest for four days from October 12-15. The international buyers and festival programmers participating in these Screenings voted for the San Sebastian winner Gravehopping by Slovenia’s Jan Cvitkovic as the best film among the 20 Central and East European titles showcased at the new event.

And the honours for Best Polish Film at the screenings were shared by I Am (Jestem) by Dorota Kedzierzawska and It’s Me Now (Teraz Ja) by Anna Jadowska.

The other sections included a focus on New Polish Films with screenings of Piotr Trzaskalski’s The Master (Mistrz), Anna Jadowska’s It’s Me Now, Karol Wasilka’s short Gotta Love (Kochajmy Sie) and the FilmFest’s closing film Dorota Kedzierzawska’s I Am ; the German Panorama – now in its fourth year as a collaboration with German Films – presenting a total of 17 productions including Unveiled (Fremde Haut) by Angelina Maccarone, Slight Changes In Temperature And Mind (SommerHundeSoehne) by Cyril Tuschi, Willenbrock by Andreas Dresen, and Off Beat (Kammerflimmern) by Hendrik Hoelzemann; a documentary sidebar dedicated to “Landmarks of American Mass Culture” with screenings of such films as Stuart Samuels’ Midnight Movies: From The Margin To The Mainstream , David Sereda’s Dan Ackroyd Unplugged On UFOs , and Ken Bowser’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How The Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood ; and the Free Spirit sidebar dedicated to independent, innovative and rebellious films like Anders Thomas Andersen’s Adam’s Apples (Adams Aebler), Aron Gauder’s The District (Nyocker) and Kriv Stenders’ The Illustrated Family Doctor .

In addition, the Filmfest once again staged its classes for film journalists but this year extended the invitation for participation to critics from outside of Poland as well. Over three days, the young journalists were able to meet with leading international professionals and hear about working as a critic in other countries.

Leslie Felperin spoke about her work as a reviewer for Variety, while the FIPRESCI jury gave an overview of the international organisation’s activities and Martin Blaney spoke about his work as a film trade journalist for Screen International. This year’s lineup was rounded off with Jorn Rossing-Jensen speaking about life as a freelancer.

Meanwhile, an innovation at this year’s FilmFest to raise the event’s industrial profile in the international arena was the creation of the CentEast regional film market for films from Central and Eastern Europe.

CentEast builts on the experiences of the festival’s previous Warsaw Screenings and featured industry screenings of around 20 films from countries ranging from Russia, Georgia, the Baltic states and Ukraine through the Czech Republic and Slovakia to Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and former Yugoslavia.

The market, which was attended by distributors, TV buyers, producers, sales agents, and international film festival directors and programmers, was complemented by two industry roundtables: one gave an introduction to Rotterdam’s CineMart, the Berlinale’s Co-Production Market, the Mannheim Meetings and Cannes Film Market, while the second panel focussed on the do’s and don’ts of international sales and marketing for Central and East European films.