[ENG] Festival Off Plus Camera: Sundance in Krakow

Article published on June 27, 2014
Article published on June 27, 2014

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

An­nu­ally or­ga­nized in the spring in Krakow, the In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of In­de­pen­dent Cin­ema Off Plus Cam­era is one of the most dis­tinc­tive film events in Central Europe. Many are im­pressed with this multi-faceted event for its cul­tural di­ver­sity. The au­di­ence is presented with orig­i­nal and un­com­pro­mis­ing movies pre­sented by for­eign and Pol­ish film­mak­ers alike.

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: