The World Seen From the Point of View of the Krakow Film Festival

in 53rd Krakow Film Festival

by Leslaw Roman Czaplinski

Krakow’s film festival, taking place for the fifty third time, has originated from at first a small national, and then an international, short-film competition which included documentary films as well as narrative études and animation. With the course of time it has grown up and extended its form by feature films and introducing a variety of types of their assessment.

Most of documentary films presented this year, though this trend may be observed for a longer period of time, seem to be fictionalized, but they involved authentic participants of the events (in this way Michelangelo Antonioni made his short story Attempted Suicide (Tentato suicidio) about saved suicides with whom he reproduced the events driving them to take this desperate step, being a part of a larger neo-realist film Love in the City (l’Amore in Città) by many authors and professional actors).You may also note more narrative forms which are borrowed from fiction cinema, e.g. as it is seen in the Palestinian film A Word Not Ours (Alam Laysa Lana) awarded in the documentary film competition and a recipient of a prize of the student jury) by Mahdi Fleifel, which included the regular motif of a return to the times of childhood and youth spent by the narrator in Dubai and Denmark, which were specific lands of paradise in comparison with the hardships of day-to-day life of the inhabitants of a settlement for Palestinian refugees in the South of Lebanon. It is difficult to say explicitly in the case of this film whether its duration and monotony (causing the feeling of fatigue)are the result of the poor skills, an expression of Eastern traditions with their unhurried rhythm which are related to the different feeling of the passing of time, or the director’s conscious idea to show the experience of closure in a small area and existence without hope for the change of the fate (the grandfather of the narrator was there as a teenager and is now nearing his end of life). However, watching other films from that region and cultural circle (e.g. Camera (Woman) by Karima Zoubir, a Moroccan filmmaker, who treatise is about a divorced woman who supports herself by making films on the marriage festivities), I have become certain that this is not an author’s strategy, but a feature of that kind of world perception and forms of artistic expression.

Familiarization with the cruel reality during the Lebanese War of 1982, including camps for the Palestinians prisoners-of-war, probably caused an inner change in Gilada Atzmona, a young jazz musician serving in the Israeli army who as the result of the influence of this experience decided to emigrate to the UK and join the Pacifist movement. The British film Gilad & All That Jazz by Persian director Golriz Kolahi, also an immigrant, is devoted to his case. It is an important voice which makes an effort to overcome certainclichés and taboos existing in the public discourse with reference to the Holocaust. Undoubtedly, it contributed to the importance of establishment of the Israeli state as the political base for the survivors from the Shoah and prevention it in the future but — at the same time — it cannot justify modern atrocities or the critics of such actions cannot be blamed for anti-Semitism which, clearly, is not the same as negationism appearing in Muslim ideology. The case of Gilan Atzmon becomes a part of a wider debate on Marek Edelman — who also encountered disapproval and was named anti-Semitic and was one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (who appeared in a Polish film Rotem by Agnieszka Arnol, about Jews hiding in Warsaw under Nazi occupation) – and Noam Chomsky or Daniel Barenboim. I think you could expect that those gestures could be returned by the other side more frequently as it was In the case of Edward Wadie Said, a co-founder with Barenboim of “West-Eastern Divan Orchestra”, composed of young Israeli and Palestinian musicians, which was a similar initiative to the Gilad Atzmon’s “Oriental House Ensemble” (Nigel Kennedy, a Krakow dwelling British violinist, appears for a moment in this film).

Bulgarian The Last Black Sea Pirates by Svetoslav Stoyanov which was awarded by FIPRESCI is a story about one of the last enclaves of freedom live at natural reserve at the Black Sea. The homeless, unemployed people and former prisoners excluded by current political system — as well as other people who cannot pull themselves together in new political system — all find refuge here and find themselves in danger because of the greedy developers, planning to build a luxury tourist and recreation centre. At the same time it could be interpreted on a higher level as a parable about the right to freedom, being different and nonconformist and the unavoidable conflict with globalization and its mass culture, striving to common unification.

A precise location, e.g. a London street which leads west out from the British capital city in the British film The Road: a Story of Life and Heath by Marc Isaacs, is a pretext for evoking different fates, which were conditioned by historical events and by their origin (inter alia a Jewish immigrant during the war, Muslim receptionist from Kashmir, German stewardess).

In turn, photographic activity became a common carrier for the story concerning Venezuelan revolutionist Carlos, behind famous assassinations and kidnappings during the 60s and 70s of the previous century in In the Darkroom by Nadav Schirman, whose wife was interested in this area of art, and in the Polish A Diary of a Journey (Dziennik z podrózy) by Piotr Stasik, concerning inter-generation dialogue which is accompanied by the initiation of a pupil in his teens in the craft by an old photographer; both of them seek interesting views in the genre and sleepy life of provincial towns.

Sometimes, a journey may stimulate you to observe the world and reflect on yourself and your role in it. Marcel and Pawel Lozinski, representing two generations of Polish film documentary film-makers, go to France where the former has buried the ashes of his mother. During the journey they reflect on the relationships between themselves and queries concerning their identities appear. At the same time it was a starting point for an interesting experiment as two screen versions of the film were edited from the same footage: the father’s — Father and Son on a Journey (Ojciec i syn w podrózy) by Marcel Lozinski — and the son’s — Father and Son (Ojciec i syn) by Pawel Lozinski (winners of the Silver Horn for Best Direction). It may be interesting for you if we watch a psycho-drama aiming at causing catharsis, being a form of a film exhibitionism, or an elaborated self-creation?

Another Night on Earth (Otranoche en la terra) by David Munoz is also a road trip movie about Cairo taxi-driversincluding a female, working by night, and a panorama of local political reality and social conventions, arising from their conversations with passengers.

Concerning the phenomenon of blurring of clear genre distinctions between documentary fiction cinema and invokedin the introduction by me, you may reflect whether the first one is still more attached to the message than to the formal novelty? An example of the second strategy is Lithuanian The Father by Armenian film-maker Marat Sargsyan (winner of the Silver Horn for direction), where the allegoric rhetoric and expression based on dominating ugliness may be seen. Similar iconographic motifs appear many times with it which plays a symbolic role. They include fireworks appearing during the Christmas midnight service in the film mentioned aboveas well as in the international football match which is keenly watched in the Palestinian settlement in the film discussed in the introduction where they are only a “festive” variety in the hopelessness of its monotonous life.

Edited by Laurence Boyce