Krakow Full of Films

in 10th OFF CAMERA International Festival of Independent Cinema, Krakow

by Ladislav Volko

Krakow, on the river Vistula, is not only a city of tourists and students, history and contemporary art, theatre and cabaret, but also of cinema. The 10th Festival of Film Music has just ended, and here we are at the start of the 57th annual Krakow Film Festival. In between the two was Off Plus Camera, a festival full of screenings and discussions, and meetings and exchanges between masters of filmmaking and those who aspire to become masters.

The festival has several sections, so that practically everybody can find something of interest. The most important sections are the Polish Feature Film Competition and the International Dramatic Competition. In the latter, the jury watched ten films from Europe, North America and Asia. All of these movies were about aspirations and desires: for freedom, for the authentic life of heroes, for finding a proper place in this cruel world.

Movie heroes often have desires, dreams, restlessness, uncertainty and complexes. They tend to respond to these problems with aggression or depression. The young filmmakers in this section addressed the need for acceptance. One had the impression of single story being told throughout, only with changing scenery. In Butterfly Kisses, by Rafael Kapelinski, three teenagers living on a British council estate kill time by hanging around, smoking marijuana and talking, mainly about sex. A similar story is told in Darren Thornton’s Irish film A Date for Mad Mary, the story of a girl newly released from prison who can’t find her place in society. In Marco Danieli’s World Girl, another young girl tries to leave her family of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Filthy features a Slovak teen who is raped by her maths teacher and ends up in a psychiatric institution. In the American film Dayveon, by Amman Abbasi, a 13-year-old black boy from the South feels that he has nobody to help him in this brutal world, after his older brother is shot dead by a gang member. Which way will he turn – can he avoid joining the gang? The Wound deals with the conflict between traditional values and personal identity in the ritual circumcision of young boys.

In two films, we learned about different aspects of co-existence in a family and society. Stella Meghie’s Jean of the Joneses is a variation on a classic comedy, a dynamic and turbulent story about a Jamaican-American family. The Polish film The Last Family, directed by Jan P Matuszynski, is a kind of biography of an artist, but it is foremost a film about family. It is one of the most interesting debuts in Polish cinema, and won the prize of the International Dramatic Competition.

Finally, there were two films made using very classical film language, both dealing with a man’s aspirations to discard stereotypes and make an authentic personal life for himself. One was the American director Kogonada’s Columbus, and the other was the FIPRESCI prizewinner Pop Aye by Kirsten Tan.

The works of these young filmmakers tend to be the reflection of an evil reality. They show a desire for authenticity, poetry and higher principles, as if these values had disappeared from the world. However, the fact that these young directors are on a quest should give us hope in what Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman has called these “liquid times”.

Edited by Lesley Chow