American films show audiences a different side of The States at fifth American Film Festival (Oct 21-26) in Wrocław, Poland.

When you walk through the streets of Wroclaw, Poland, you see the impact American culture has in European countries. You look left, right, forward, backward, you’re bound to see people wearing “LA” and “NY” hats, along with other American clothing.

After talking to some of the natives, they knew a lot more about The States than I thought. As an American, I was impressed. They were naming their favorite boroughs in New York and rattling off facts about Los Angeles that even I didn’t know. It became clear to me that the stereotypes of New York and LA were well known, but other aspects of the country’s culture were not.

The festival screened two films that caught my eye, as far as American culture is concerned.

BFE [pictured], directed by Shawn Telford, tells the story of residents of a small American town, based on his hometown in Idaho. The film shows the individual struggles faced by the town’s residents, from drugs and alcohol to teenage angst and the issues of growing old. 

“For me, I was thinking from the angle that we see so many movies that take place in New York and LA. But my hometown is a very special place, too, and a lot of things happen there and we feel, to some degree, a little illegitimate, because nobody ever talks about us,” Telford says.

“So what I did was try to focus on the specifics of our region and our town, really pinpointing these details from the beginning on how to show our town.”

Another film, also incredibly well received by the Polish audience, was I’m Obsessed with You (But You’ve Got to Leave Me Alone). Written by Genevieve Adams, who also stars in the film, and directed by Jon Goracy, the film is a coming-of-age ensemble dramedy about four collegiate comedians and a magnetic movie star who try to live life according to the “yes and” rule of improv.

“I was surprised at how well the film translated. Two Russian tourists came up to me at the Bronx Obama screening and asked for pictures! They were very enthusiastic,” said Adams, who based the film on her college days.

“One young Polish actress thanked me and Jon for making a film about the significance of improvisation as an art form. I think the intensity and humor of the friendships in the movie speak for themselves, which is a testament to our talented actors.”

Polish audiences may not know where the state of Idaho is on a US map. They most likely didn’t know what improv groups or fraternities were, either. But through the AFF, they were exposed to a sublevel of American culture in the purest form.