Polish cinema triumphed at the International Competition of this year’s Warsaw Film Festival (Oct 7-16) with Wojciech Smarzowski’s Rose picking up the Warsaw Grand Prix and Greg Zglinski’s Courage taking the special jury award for Best Actor as well as the ecumenical jury’s award.
Set in the Polish region of Masuria in the summer of 1945, Smarzowski’s fourth feature had premiered at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia in June where it had been passed over by the national jury in favour of Jerzy Skolimowski’s Essential Killing.
The international jury’s choice of Courage’s lead actor Robert Wieckiewicz for its Special Jury Award as best actor was very popular with the audience at the awards ceremony on saturday evening. On accepting the award, Wieckiewicz, who also stars in Agnieszka Holland’s Polish Oscar submission In Darkness, quipped: “I’d like to say that there are plenty of great actors in Poland. I’m not the only one!” Zglinski’s film had its international premiere in Busan this week and the director was in a plane between Busan and Warsaw when the awards were announced.
Moreover, there were two special mentions from the ecumenical jury and the international jury for the Romanian-Polish co-production of Anca Damian’s animated documentary Crulic – The Path To Beyond. The film’s Polish producer Arkadiusz Wojnarowski dedicated the distinctions to the memory of the 33-year-old Romanian Crulic who died in a Krakow detention centre after a hunger strike in 2008. Damian could not accept the diplomas in person as she was already presenting the film at the London Film Festival this weekend.
The international jury, which included filmmakers Milcho Manchevski and Alvaro Brechner, veteran sales expert Christa Saredi and producer Atrem Vasiliev, awarded the best director award to Argentinean filmmaker Santiago Amigorena for his contemporary western Another Silence.
The 1-2 Competition for first and second features was won by the Russian director Angelina Nikonova’s hard-hitting drama Twilight Portrait “for the original approach and courage in showing the true situation of women in a world in which they turn to be stronger than the strongest man,” while the jury of the Free Spirit Competition for independent, innovatory and rebellious films from all over the world picked another filmmaker from Argentina, Tamae Garateguy, for her debut Pompeya “because of its unique structure, strong ideas, excellent performances, and riveting tension that builds up to an unexpected climax that breaks your expectations.” Special mentions were made by this jury of Colombian filmmaker Carlos Osuna’s Fat, Bald, Short Man and Spanish director Jonathan Cenzual Burley’s The Soul Of Flies.
Meanwhile, the documentary jury awarded its prize to Marina Goldovskaya for A Bitter Taste Of Freedom about the assassinated investigative journalist Anna Poltkovskaya with a special mention for Cindy Meehl’s Buck about the original horse whisperer Buck Brannaman.
The FIPRESCI Award for the best Eastern European debut went to Konstantin Bojanov’s Ave, which had premiered at this year’s Cannes, “for its uncontrived, humorous, effortless and tender portrait of two young Bulgarians and their imaginative escapes“, and Warsaw’s first ever NETPAC Jury gave its award to Haolun Shu’s No. 89 Shimen Road – which had screened in the 1-2 Competition – describing it as “a personal and touching view of a world that no longer exists.”
Over 100 filmmakers came to Warsaw this year to present their films in person with many of them being feature debutants such as Donald Li (Close Encounter of Mahjong), Cynthia Gabrenja and Marcello Scoccia (January), Kivu Ruhorahoza (Grey Matter) and Aldo Tardozzi (Spots).
At the same time, WFF’s industry event CentEast organised its third collaboration with Moscow’s 2morrow Film Festival to present selected works in progress from Eastern Europe to festival programmers, sales agents and distributors in Warsaw on Oct 14 (and in Moscow on Oct 22).
This year’s lineup at the MEDIA Mundus-backed CentEast Warsaw Moscow presentation included new films by Bohdan Slama (Four Suns), Andrzej Zakimowski (Blind Watching) and Szabolcs Hajdu (The Gambler).
Producer Pavel Strnad of Prague-based Negativ said that Slama’s film, starring Ana Geislerova and Jaroslav Plesl, will be released by Falcon in Czech cinemas next spring, while Petr Anurov revealed that Roman Prygunov’s Soulless, which could be seen as a Russian take on Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, will be released in Russian cinemas next year by Universal Pictures International.
UK producer Mike Downey was joined for the pitch of Blind Watching [working title] by director Jakimowski and the film’s French co-producer and distributor Vladimir Kokh, noting that they were in “advanced negotiations” with sales agents for the drama starring Edward Hogg and Alexandra Maria Lara about a new instructor at a well-known opthalmology clinic in Lisbon who starts to teach spatial orientation to its international group of blind students.
In addition, Andrea Taschler of Budapest-based Mirage Film Studio explained that she was looking for additional finance to continue the second half of shooting next year on Hajdu’s contemporary adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s novel which is set in Las Vegas and stars Andi Vasluianu, Orsolya Török-Illyes and Oana Pellea.
Those attending CentEast in Warsaw include sales agents Pamela Leu (Films Distribution), Stelios Ziannis (Aktis Film International), Sascha Wieser (EastWest Filmdistribution) as well as festival representatives Mira Staleva (Sofia IFF), Albert Wiederspiel and Kathrin Kohlstedde (Filmfest Hamburg) and Evgeniy Gusyatinskiy (IFF Rotterdam), and distributors Michael Isele (Kool Film), Monica Eckelkamp (Eye Film Institute) and Roman Gutek (Gutek Film).
Meanwhile, representatives from Unifrance, Rezo, Tribeca Film Festival, Latido Films, M-Appeal and Memento Films International are among the foreign participants set to travel to Moscow at the end of the week for the second presentation of the works in progress.