Change of the Guard

in 56th Krakow Film Festival

by Janusz Kolodziej

The 56th edition of the Krakow Film Festival is now behind us but questions about the future of documentary, animated and short films are still valid. On the one hand the expansion of television greatly increases the demand for content, on the other hand it does not impose, due to its scale and enormous demand, meeting all tastes and appropriate level. This phenomenon is well known to program directors of all festivals, flooded with thousands of entries from all over the world. One can even get the impression that these days everyone shoots films, regardless of whether they are professional filmmakers or not, because the digital technology greatly facilitates the realization of all ideas, even in amateur conditions.

Fortunately, in Krakow we did not see movies which were created just to satisfy the ego of the director, or to fulfil his dreams of Hollywood fame. The screens of the Krakow cinemas were dominated by professional pieces coming from dozens of countries around the world and showing us the world and its inhabitants through the prism of individual destinies. Documentary cinema does not avoid current events but also willingly uses archives, hence in competitions there are pieces which refer to the past.

However, it is the record of events which here and now dominate in particularly politically sensitive areas like Russia, the Middle East or areas of conflicts like Ukraine and Afghanistan, or documents registering important social and economic processes as the growing wave of migration in Europe, rising unemployment, religious and gender intolerance.

The films presented in Krakow showed the drama of refugees from the Syrian border, and those who found their imaginary paradise in the middle of Europe. They patiently recorded the difficult relationships between mother and daughter, father and son, awaiting for death in the Indonesian prison or life on the margins of California, which is supposedly the American “land of happiness”. They showed a total alienation in the New York jungle and the tragic fate of a Russian dissident. With genuine virtuosity they addressed the toughest themes – life and death, faith in God or in the thoughtless instinct of self-preservation. And they shed light on total, universal loneliness.

A large dose of pessimism flowing from the screen is the one conclusion, but another instils a genuine optimism, because it concerns a professional “change of the guard” realised before our eyes. Many of the filmmakers are young men and women who while not neglecting the achievements and advisory voice of the “old” masters, tell their stories in their own way.

My final observation – nothing is forbidden. But although there are no taboos, and any theme can be brought to the screen, still no one tries to cross the border that separates civilized men from barbarians.

Edited by Yael Shuv