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American invasion

The strange sensation of being inundated with American indies in the heart of Europe.

International film festivals are disorienting in the best of circumstances, getting wrapped up with journeys on screen and then wandering around unfamiliar cities in the evenings.

It was even weirder for my first trip to Poland this past weekend — which turned out to be all about America.

I was visiting Wroclaw’s second American Film Festival, a unique event on the festival calendar that really seems to connect with local audiences as well as European and American visitors. (It is organised by the New Horizons Association, which also runs the larger international film festival there in July.)

I was mostly in town to attend Gotham In Progress, for American filmmakers to screen works in progress to European sales companies and distributors. Those specifically American stories included a Florida road trip gone wrong, the struggles of people on the fringes of society in Nashville, and a wild night shared between New Yorkers.

At the rest of the American Film Festival, Todd Solondz (who was given a retrospective and had Dark Horse opening the festival) could be found nightly at screenings and at the festival hangout bar; the Helios cinema lobby was filled with the likes of Joe Swanberg (who also got a retrospective), Alison Bagnall (The Dish and The Spoon), Michael Tully (Septien), and Clay Jeter (Jess + Moss). American accents were more common than Polish at most festival lunches and dinners.

It was hard to remember where in the world we were, but the immersion in American films in an international setting worked really well. The local students in Wroclaw were completely enamored as well, turning out in droves for some obscure new US indies or old greats from Terrence Malick and Billy Wilder.

There were at least some local delicacies instead of American food: a few pierogies and copious amounts of the local cherry vodka. And next time I’m in Poland, I vow to see at least Polish film instead of running away to the wheat fields of Days of Heaven.

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