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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » May 28, 2013
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Fashion for Film Festivals
May 28, 2013   
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More than a hundred film festivals are held in Poland every year, ranging from red-carpet events to low-key, niche overviews of art house movies. Most of these events focus on feature films, but some also showcase documentaries and animated movies.

Poland’s first film festivals were held in the 1960s. The country’s oldest film festival has been running annually in Cracow since 1961. The high-profile Polish Film Festival in Gdynia was launched in 1974. Held annually in September, the festival overviews trends and developments in Poland’s movie industry. The main prize of the festival is the Golden Lions (pictured left). Several years ago, the festival’s agenda was expanded to include an independent film competition.

Meanwhile, the international Warsaw Film Festival was first held 25 years ago as a local event for college students. Today it features a wide selection of both Polish and foreign movies, including independent cinema. The festival is often divided into sections that feature films from specific countries or regions.

Film distributor Roman Gutek is the country’s most effective promoter of art house cinema and indie productions. He is the man behind the T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival, which is held every July in the southwestern city of Wrocław, focusing on unconventional and innovative cinema. Films screened during that festival are hand-picked from among hundreds shown at festivals and trade events around the world. According to the festival’s organizers, each T-Mobile New Horizons film has its “own and unique style, a memorable form and a powerful message.”

Many of these thought-provoking films have set new trends in global cinema. The best submission to the festival’s international competition wins the Grand Prix award from viewers. The festival, which was first held in 2001, is financially supported by the European Union under its Media Plus program.

Movies from outside the mainstream are also shown at the Off Plus Camera International Festival of Independent Cinema, held in Cracow every April since 2008. The festival aims to “defy prevalent standards on the media market in Poland” and opposes “a situation in which films are judged by their commercial potential instead of quality.” Off Plus Camera aspires to set alternative standards and allow talented filmmakers to produce material living up to their skills and sensitivity. The festival’s main event is an international competition with the Cracow Film Award as the main prize. The festival includes a competition for movies made with cell phones.

Internationally acclaimed film festivals held in Poland include the Plus Camerimage International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography, held in late November and early December in Bydgoszcz. The festival was first held in 1993 in Toruń, after which it was moved to ŁódĽ in 2000 and subsequently to Bydgoszcz in 2010. The festival’s top prize, the Golden Frog, is coveted by cinematographers around the world. The winners are selected by a panel of judges who include some of the world’s best cinematographers, directors and other renowned filmmakers. Plus Camerimage stands out among other film festivals with workshops and seminars conducted by masters of contemporary international cinema. The festival also includes the Plus Camerimage Market event, during which producers of filmmaking equipment exhibit their latest products and cutting-edge technology used in movie production and the post-production stage.

The Cracow Film Festival, the oldest film festival in Poland, takes place in late May and early June. Focusing on short films, it features documentaries, short fiction films and animated films. The event is divided into three competitions for foreign shorts, Polish shorts and feature-length films produced in Poland and abroad. The winner of the Polish short film competition receives the Golden Hobby-Horse award, and the main prize in the international competition for short documentaries, animated films and short fiction films is the Golden Dragon. The main prize in the third competition is called the Golden Horn and there is also a viewers’ choice award. The Cracow festival is accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF), the European Film Award (EFA), and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, thanks to which the winners are eligible for European Film Award nominations and, in the case of short feature film winners, American Academy Award nominations.

A wide variety of documentaries is shown during the Planete+ Doc Film Festival held in May in Warsaw. The festival organizers select the best documentaries from Poland and abroad, guided by criteria such as the quality of filmmaking and inventive style. The best documentary takes home the Grand Prix-Millennium Prize.

Another documentary festival, the Watch Docs International Film Festival—Human Rights in Film, held in December, focuses on documentaries and programs dealing with human rights. The festival is primarily targeted at nongovernmental organizations in Poland and other countries in Eastern Europe. Admission is free to all screenings and festival events.

Some of Poland’s film festivals are touring events that move from one city to another. One example is the Ale Kino+ Films of the World Festival. Held in late November and early December, the festival aims to introduce Polish audiences to movies made outside Europe and North America. Festival screenings take place in Warsaw, Cracow, Poznań, Gdańsk and Katowice and include some of the most remarkable movies from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Many of them are prizewinners from prestigious international festivals and have their Polish premieres at the Ale Kino+ festival.

The Borderland Cinema Film Review, held in late April and early May in the town of Cieszyn on Poland’s border with the Czech Republic, features independent movies made in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Organized since 1999, this low-key event has no prizes to be won, because the organizers aim to help filmmakers from these three Central European countries to get to know one another better.

Many of the film festivals in Poland focus exclusively on animated films. The oldest event of this kind is the Etiuda & Anima International Film Festival, held in Cracow every November since 1994. Initially, the festival only featured shorts made by film school students, but in 2005 its agenda was expanded to include animated films submitted by both students and professionals as well as independent filmmakers. The best short films win Golden, Silver and Bronze Dinosaur statuettes, while the winning animated films claim the Golden, Silver and Bronze Jabberwockies.

The newest festival focusing on animated films of all kinds is the Animator International Festival held in April in the western city of Poznań. It was launched in 2008 to mark 60 years of animated film in Poland. Part of the festival is an open, international competition for animated films with a running time of less than 30 minutes. There are no limitations regarding techniques. A panel of international judges selects winners who receive the festival’s Golden, Silver and Bronze Pegasus awards. The judges also give out a special prize to a film dealing with environmental issues and best animated musical film to highlight the link between animated film and music.
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