End Games By Maria Kornatowska
This year’s Cracow Film Festival was an interesting event. The general level of films was mostly high or, at least, satisfying. I noticed some new tendencies, new trends, new phenomena present in all the Festival categories. For instance, some short documentaries have changed their format, rejecting alleged objectivity such as the presence of filmmakers becoming obvious yet vivid in the Spanish The Tailor by Oskar Perez and the Serbian The Journey of a Red Fridge by Lucian Muntean and Natasa Stankovic. In that way a documentary film reveals its subjective nature as a image of reality seen and recorded by the very specific filmmaker.
A strong presence at the Festival was animation with its audiovisual invention rooted in tradition and experiences of surrealism and expressionism and its philosophical reflection and lyrical values. The perfect example is Refrains by Wiola Sowa, the film awarded by the FIPRESCI jury. But the documentary film remains a backbone of Cracow Festival selections. It seems to me that this year’s selection focused on not very popular and fashionable topics in recent times: the elderly, abandoned and lost in the world dominated by dynamic, energetic youth and market rules. Life passing by, death, the sense of human existence in face of aging and death, the loneliness of old people in abandoned villages and the changing society became the main subject of many films — documentaries as well as short fiction.
Humoresque, in black and white, by Romanian filmmaker Diana Deleanu, was maybe the most remarkable example of this tendency. Maria is 94 years old, the oldest person in the village. She worked very hard all her life but remains poor. She would like to die but she can’t afford her own funeral. She marries her 73-year-old neighbour thus receiving the allowance granted to newlyweds by the European Union. Now Maria can die in peace and have the decent funeral. In this intelligent, unsentimental movie we feel the spirit of Ionesco.
And we can notice in different films different approaches to the matter of death — realistic even pragmatic or philosophical and metaphysical. In The Golden Dragon winner, a moving Spanish short fiction film Lightborne by Eduardo Chapero-Jackson, death is a liberation from the darkness of suffering, becoming a kind of illumination. In the beautifully-shot Scottish-Canadian documentary A Second Sight by Alison Mcalpine, death is a part of the magic ritual of life.
I think that this emphasis on old age, decay and death is a protest against the narrow dominating youth culture and, on the other hand, it is a sign of general anxiety, fear of changes and the transformation of society, nostalgia for the past, a loss of confidence and global pessimism. Anyway it is a very interesting, meaningful phenomenon.