OFF Camera as a Brand

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

by Anita Skwara

During its ten years, Netia OFF Camera has transformed into a recognized event on the map of world independent cinema. The selection of over 200 screenings, the two competitions Making Way (main competition) and the Polish Feature Film Competition, themed sections such as “People are Fiction?”, “The Strong Sex”, “US Indies” and “The Future Starts Now”, and a special section devoted to TV series (Canal+ SerialCon) gathered thousands of enthusiastic viewers. The industry part of the festival consisted of numerous events, meetings, master classes and workshops. Once again, ScriptPro, the biggest screenwriting competition in the country, co-ordinated with the Wajda Film School, was held. With its ambitious and original film program, OFF Camera also respects the needs of its youngest audience: tourists. That’s why the so-called Film Village was created on the Plac Szczepanski.

Emotions were high at the screenings of the competition films, since prestige and outstanding financial rewards were at stake. The ten titles in each of the two competitions made a fabulous double set of films – vibrant, diverse, original and personal. The Making Way competition also has the benefit bringing some of the most talked-about first or second features in the world to Poland. According to the rules, there is also one Polish title in this section. This year, it was Jan P. Matuszynski’s The Last Family (Ostatnia rodzina), one of the most interesting Polish debuts in years. This sophisticated family drama, based on the story of the famous Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski, received several national and international awards last year.

Deciding on the winners must have been a challenge for jury members: the films in competition were so different, since young artists take different paths to find their own cinematic language. However, it was possible to detect common themes and subjects between them. These were movies made by young people about young people, addressed to a young audience. Under the rubric of “young cinema” they depicted an approach to the world which works universally, independent of age, sex or nationality.

Butterfly Kisses, by the UK-based Polish director Rafael Kapelinski, is a stylish South London drama rooted in the visual tradition of film noir. By depicting the lives of three teenagers on a council estate, the author poses questions about social taboos and the limits of our personal imaginations. This film delighted the OFF Camera Young Jury, which gave it an award.

Columbus, written and directed by Kogonada, a Korean-born American filmmaker, is a movie of emotional intensity despite the use of slow rhythm and subtle narration to discuss unusual relations between fragile outsiders in the landscape of the titular town. A very different film was Dayveon, by the talented filmmaker, composer, writer and musician Amman Abbasi. There are moments in this film when the world onscreen seems to explode. Artistic bravado, density of narration, strong characters and the outstanding visual beauty of the Southern landscapes genuinely suggest a new way for young cinema.

One of the most important sections was “The Strong Sex”, devoted to womanhood onscreen. Two of the films here delighted the audience and deserve special attention: the documentary Maya Angelou and Still I Rise by Bob Herkules and Rita Coburn Whack, and the feature In Between by Maysaloun Hamoud. The first mesmerized viewers with its portrait of a legendary female figure in the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans. The second is a remarkable debut from an Israeli director, which ask us to consider where womanhood comes from – nature or culture?

The diversity of all the films mentioned is a hallmark of the festival – it is vibrant, keeping its finger on the pulse of young, independent international cinema. This jubilee 10 th edition confirmed that Making Way is not only a catchprase, but a long-term strategy for this outstanding event.

Edited by Lesley Chow