59th Krakow Film Festival

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  • Sunday, May 26, 2019 - Sunday, June 2, 2019

Cinematic Joy

Personal family stories, shrewd social reportages, enthralling animations… In late May and early June we will be swept up by a hurricane of films!

The 59th Krakow Film Festival (26 May – 2 June) has been captivating audiences since day one. This year’s festival opens with Michał Bielawski’s The Wind. A Documentary Thriller. “When it arrives, it imposes its own laws. Perhaps this is why Poland’s southern wind is a bit like a cousin you try to but can’t avoid: difficult, aggressive and brutal, but somehow you have to learn to live with it. I am absolutely delighted that my film inaugurates this year’s festival,” says the director.

Dragon of Dragons

The Programme Board of the Krakow Film Foundation has awarded this year’s Dragon of Dragons to Caroline Leaf, pioneer of sand animation and paint-on-glass techniques, for her contribution to world cinematography in the animation genre. As well as the award ceremony (27 May), the festival also features a retrospective of the Canadian-American artist including her Oscar-nominated The Street and The Owl Who Married a Goose made using the sand-on-glass technique.

Picturing the world

Featuring an Israeli lawyer defending Palestinians, a Serbian author acting as spokesman for Aborigine peoples in Australia and exploring the lives of Polish exiles in Africa, the international documentary competition presents electrifying stories and fascinating protagonists. “Many of the documentaries will make the world appear even more complicated. They focus on the walls we build in our own minds, on life in the shadow of recent wars, on resurrected ghosts of the past,” says Anita Piotrowska, film critic and one of the festival’s selectors. Films competing for the Golden Horn include Advocate (dir. Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche) portraying an Israeli lawyer who has spent many years tirelessly defending Palestinians accused of terrorism, Memory Is Our Homeland by Jonathan Kolodziej Durand who takes a fascinating look at East Africa, home to Poles exiled to Siberia during the Second World War, and Andrijana Stojko’s Wongar depicting the life of the Serbian author Sreten Božić who has dedicated his life to writing on the condition of Aborigines in Australia.

A mosaic of stories

Which films have been selected as part of the international short film competition? “As usual, we have a colourful mosaic of stories from all over the globe. Short films are no longer a format which is only used as an exercise ahead of a ‘grand debut’. They are an important element of cinema and they are just as well acted, beautifully filmed and wisely told as their longer cousins. They are mature and insightful,” stresses curator Dagmara Romanowska. The international lineup of productions competing for the Golden Dragon includes Polish films, such as Portrait of Suzanne directed by Izabela Plucińska and based on a story by Roland Topor, Marcin Polar’s documentary The Tough shown at the Sundance Festival, and Helena Oborska’s unsettling and oneiric Bitten.

The festival’s longest-running Polish film competition always stirs the greatest emotions, bringing together acclaimed filmmakers and debuting directors. Piotr Jaworski’s documentary The Antarctic Syndrome explores the boundaries of human endurance under extreme conditions such as at polar research stations or in space. The intertwining of real and virtual life in people who are lonely, lost or resigned to reality is the subject of Jola Bańkowska’s Story. Paweł Wysoczański’s No Direction Home introduces the charismatic Polish doctor and secular missionary Helena Pyz treating people affected by leprosy in Jeevodaya in India.

Multitude of sounds

Stories of world-famous music stars and anonymous heroes, the greatest stages and tiny rooms in cultural centres: every year the DocFilmMusic section captivates audiences with myriad sounds and music genres. The documentary Steven Tyler. Out on a Limb (dir. Casey Tebo) follows the new artistic path taken by the frontman of the hard rock band Aerosmith, who suddenly finds himself exploring the country music scene. Emmanuelle Antille’s A Bright Light – Karen and the Process recalls Karen Dalton, the cult 1960s American singer and almost-forgotten muse of Bob Dylan. Amy Goldstein’s documentary Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is an intimate portrait of the eccentric composer and former wrestling queen. The competition screenings close with the biopic of the undisputed legend and musical visionary, Miles Davies: Birth of the Cool (dir. Stanley Nelson).

Focus on Finland

This year’s Focus on… section takes a look at Finland. “Finland is the latest Baltic country whose cinematography we are introducing to our festival audience,” says Barbara Orlicz-Szczypuła, director of the programming office. The section opens on 28 May with a screening of Reeta Huhtanen’s Gods of Molenbeek – a moving and universal story of two boys from the disreputable district of Brussels. Paul-Anders Simma takes us to the rugged landscapes of Lapland to reveals the Power of Yoik, the unique singing style cultivated by the local Sámi people, while Niklas Kullström and Martti Kaartinen introduce the Finnish diplomat and linguist of the first half of the 20th century Gustaf John Ramstedt who explored Mongolia, China, Japan and South Korea (Eastern Memories).

Cinematic panorama

The festival also includes the traditional Polish Panorama, featuring the most fascinating brand new and established documentaries. They include The Last Mountain (dir. Dariusz Załuski) about the daring mission by Polish climbers to rescue the stranded French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol from Nanga Parbat, Tomasz Knittel’s Złota introducing the lives of a couple of owners of a Warsaw tenement house, and Ewa Podgórska’s Diagnosis building a portrayal of a city shown through a prism of human stories and memories.

The cycle Festival Award Winners once again helps audiences catch up with past releases. This year’s screenings include the intimate, poetic portrayal of two beekeepers from an abandoned Macedonian village whose peaceful lives are upended by the sudden arrival of a large, rowdy family (Honeyland, dir. Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska) and Paweł Ziemilski’s documentary In Touch about immigrants from a village in northern Poland who set off for Iceland in search of work and a better life.

The section Sound of Music, led by Piotr Metz once again, presents music documentaries awarded prizes in recent years, including Stephen Nomura Schible’s Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda shown at the foot of Wawel Hill. And of course there will be film screenings held as part of the Kids & Youth section, and that’s barely scratching the surface of this year’s festival attractions! Let yourselves get swept away!

(Justyna Skalska, "Karnet" magazine)

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