Niche cinema and mass interest
At the seventh edition of Off Plus Camera Festival, more than a hundred films were carefully selected, from all over the world. The organizers had the near impossible task of combining niche, auteur cinema with mass interest. The spirit of independent cinema was empowered by the intricate settings where the screenings were held. While mostly organized in art houses, some of the films went to extremes, like being presented on the rooftops of several Krakow Old Town apartment houses, or under the stars on a river barge converted into a cinema. From May 2-11, Krakow was taken over by the festival. It hosted more than three hundred artists from around the world and attracted more than thirty-two thousand viewers.
Different faces of today
The Off Plus Camera Festival, sometimes known as the "Polish Sundance", promotes affordable and accessible artistic cinema. "We want to support unique visions [expressed with] skillfully-told, engaging stories [which keep] the audience discussing [them] for a long time after the screening is over," said Ania Trzebiatowska, artistic director of the festival.
Just like the Sundance Film Festival, Off Plus Camera promotes young artists. This year's movies focused on the diversity of culture in today's world, dealing with themes such as otherness, tolerance, and exclusion (section: "Minority Report"), and also illustrating individuality in the environment (section: "Eco / Ego"). The festival audience expressed great interest in the section "Growing sideways" that dealt with the initiation in queer vision in contemporary society. Also garnering attention was the series, "From the Gut", which is an overview of American independent cinema, as well as "Discoveries", featuring film productions that have been recently appreciated by audiences and critics around the world—at Festivals in Sundance, Berlin and Rotterdam.
Other integral parts of the festival include meetings with prominent Polish and foreign experts, industry lectures, professional workshops, and discussion panels. Every year, the number of fans of indie music presented in “Off stage” increases. These concerts promote eclectic music from Poland and other parts of Europe, as well as America.
Exploring the limits
The main competition, “Making Way”, is the most important part of Off Plus Camera. This year, twelve first or second films by international directors competed for the Kraków Film Award, amounting to $100 000 (USD), granted by the International Jury (Jerzy Stuhr, Parker Posey, Mike Newell, Joan Allen and Juliet Taylor).
The competition featured works that dealt with subjects as varied as the uncompromising exploration of female sexuality ("Wetlands"), the profession of surrogacy ("She's Lost Control"), and the capturing and awakening of identity and transgender transition ("Something Must Break "). Besides movies devoted to controversial topics, the festival featured more intimate films that incorporate a documentary-like storytelling such as a captivating study of the coming of age of an Australian teenager in "52 Tuesdays", and the presentation of the reality of the Georgian prison system in "Brides". The American movie, "Mother of George", enchanted the audience with a kaleidoscope of intense colors, portraying the life of Nigerians living in New York and cultivating African customs and rituals. The Norwegian film "Blind", a moving story of a woman losing her sight, turned out to be an intriguing experiment in terms of form and content. Debuting director, Eskil Vogt, used a variety of visual techniques to uniquely depict the point of view of a blind person.
Making a new way
Emerging as the winner of the competition was the French film "Eastern Boys", which presents a confrontation between East and West. In terms of form, this movie is an interesting combination of several different genres: drama, psychological thriller, and action. In a non-stereotypical and insightful way, director Robin Campillo portrays immigrants from Eastern Europe living in Paris, at the same time presenting a multi-dimensional tale of lust and same-sex love, extended far beyond the borders of the so-called genre of gay cinema.
During the closing gala of Off Plus Camera, director Eskil Vogt (“Blind”) received the FIPRESCI Critics Award and German film director, David Wnendt (“Wetland”) was awarded the audience prize. The youth Jury honored Maya Vitkova’s Bulgarian-Romanian production "Viktoria". The Polish Feature Film Competition winner was Pawel Pawlikowski’s "Ida", an intimate, black-and-white film. The special award was given to "Papusza" by Joanna Kos-Krauze Krzysztof Krauze. The recipients of the awards for best female and male performances were Dorota Kolak ("Life feels good ") and Mateusz Banasiuk ("Flowing Skyscrapers") respectively.
Off Plus Camera in happy version: