Culture.pl’s Guide to Polish Film Festivals
For those fond of artistic experiments and who love mainstream cinema. For those in search of fresh debuts and those only interested in films by world-renowned directors. For film score lovers, fans of cinematography, documentaries and animations. Culture.pl brings you a guide to Poland's best film festivals.
T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival
If you feel more tempted by Satan’s Tango with Béla Tarr than tapdancing Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this festival is for you. New Horizons (Nowe Horyzonty) does not have words like blockbuster, remake, sequel and reboot in its vocabulary (nor in its programme). It is a land of cinematic slow food, featuring art-house style stars, experimentalists, revolutionaries and those in search of cinema’s reinvention. Apart from the likes of Bruno Dumont, one can relish in works by Asian cinema masters, Cannes festival discoveries or completely unknown pieces from South America, Africa and Asia.
In recent years, Nowe Horyzonty came to be one of the most important film festivals in Poland, all while raising a generation of devoted fans. The man behind it, Roman Gutek, is responsible for bringing such films by virtuosos like Almodóvar, von Trier, Greenway, Jarmusch or Wong Kar-Wai onto Polish screens for the past 20 years.
Where and when? Wrocław in August
Find out more: T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival
Polish Film Festival in Gdynia
If you are interested in seeing the best Polish films of the past year, in Gdynia you can squeeze them all into one week. It is the most prestigious film festival in Poland. Throughout its over 40 year history, it has seen the success of the biggest names in Polish cinema – starting with Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi and Krzysztof Kieślowski and continuing on to the next generations of Polish filmmakers with names such as Małgorzata Szumowska, Wojciech Smarzowski and Tomasz Wasilewski. Polish filmmakers always make sure their films are ready for the festival. The festival’s main prize, the Golden Lions (Złote Lwy), is gateway to box-office success and saves the filmmakers a warm spot in the film history pantheon. They can be considered the Polish ‘Oscars’.
Established in 1974, the festival has changed a lot over the years, rebranding, even changing its location (it started off in Gdańsk). The competition itself changed too, oscillating between an inclusive overview of national cinema and a somewhat more selective competition focusing on more independent and non-commercial films. This notwithstanding, the festival has always served as a reference point for the industry and filmgoers. It is there that they can see first hand what shape Polish filmmakers are in and what Polish cinema has to say about the world around us.
Where and when? Gdynia in September
Find out more: Polish Film Festival in Gdynia
Watching films is not enough? You’d trade a dull multiplex screening for a Q&A with filmmakers and even being included in the creation process? Transatlantyk Festival is the place for you.
In 2011 Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Academy Award winner and one of the finest film score composers, created a festival, unlike others. Transatlantyk offers you a touch more than a mere overview of the best and the most intriguing films from around the globe. It is more of an interdisciplinary discussion on the state of modern culture and our civilisation. The discussion is fueled by a theme that each edition of the festival is built around. We have seen Culinary Cinema, B-class Cinema, Cinema in Bed, How Masters Began, featuring debuts of today’s top directors, screenings of the most important documentaries in recent years, and meetings with cinema hotshots such as Edward Norton.
The festival’s creators believe that cinema can work as an invitation to a discussion on the most demanding challenges of today’s world.
Where and when? Łódź in July
Find out more: Transatlantyk Festival
The International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography Camerimage
If you believe cinema's main focus is the visual, at Camerimage you’ll likely meet many like-minded people – Camerimage lures cinematography aficionados from all around the world.
Over the years, Marek Żydowicz’s festival has been held in Toruń, Łódź and Bydgoszcz and has never failed to draw the best cinematographers from Poland and worldwide. Suffice it to say that among the most renowned guests invited to Poland to pick the best films and hold master classes there were: Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men), Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now), Michael Chapman (Raging Bull), Conrad L. Hall (American Beauty), Sven Nykvist (cinematographer for over 20 Bergman’s films) and several dozens more.
Camerimage has become one of the most important cinematography festivals worldwide. But don’t be mistaken, it isn’t one of those closed only-for-the-industry parties – the dozens of meeting, lectures and screenings are open to the general public. And this is only a small part of what the organisers have in store for you.
Where and when? Bydgoszcz in November
Film and Art Festival Two Riversides
You like it when cinema enters into dialogue with other types of art and when this collaboration results in new meanings being created? Two Riversides is a festival for you. You should also consider coming if you like to enjoy your films surrounded by beautiful nature and lovely Renaissance and Baroque monuments.
It is considered to be one of the most pleasant festivals in Poland, mostly thanks to its laid-back ambience. For neither in Kazimierz nor in Janowiec nad Wisłą will you spot an inch of red carpet – there are no photo ops, no glamorous celebrities. Actors and filmmakers hang out in the festival’s café or stroll along the town streets. The festival is first and foremost a meeting place.
It is at Two Riversides that theatre, music, literature and cinema come together. The festival screens films selected during the most important European and world festivals. They are accompanied by all-time classics and screenings of the latest films made by Polish artists. In addition, the festival shows retrospectives of actors and directors, open-air screenings, concerts and much more. Together with the beautiful views, it really is an event worth coming back to.
Where and when?
Kazimierz Dolny & Janowiec nad Wisłą at the turn of July and August
Find out more: Film and Art Festival Two Riversides
Kraków Film Music Festival
The song Eye of the Tiger turns you into a jogging Rocky Balboa? When you see an elderly gentleman with a lawn mower, Angelo Badalamenti instantly starts playing in your head? And you start to weep upon hearing Shigeru Umebayashi’s cello? The Kraków Film Music Festival may just be one of your favourite places on Earth.
Some of the world’s finest composers have been among the guests of festival’s ten editions so far: Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings), Jan A. P. Kaczmarek (Finding Neverland), Alberto Iglesias (All About My Mother), Wojciech Kilar (The Pianist), Trevor Morris (Vikings) and Abel Korzeniowski (A Single Man), Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain), Hans Zimmer (Gladiator) and many others. In Kraków, their compositions fully resound thanks to spectacular visual effects. In less than a decade, the festival came to be one of the most important showcases of film music worldwide.
Where and when? Kraków in May
Find out more: Kraków Film Music Festival
International Film Festival of Independent Cinema Off Camera
If you like the taste of arthouse, but often end up overdosing on Sundance-like productions and look around for a mainstream cure or merely feel like watching something on an old tenement house rooftop, Off Camera may be your go-to festival.
Started in 2008, the International Film Festival of Independent Cinema Off Camera is one of the youngest among the most prestigious festivals in Poland. From the very beginning, the festival has been organised impeccably, with a star-studded guest and jury list including Andrey Zvyagintsev, Jane Campion, Peter Weir, Tim Roth, Udo Kier, Luc Besson, Volker Schlondorff and Petr Zelenka.
Aside from these big names, what else does Off Camera has to offer? Variety. It screens both art-house productions as well as more mainstream ones. Add Canal+ Con, a TV series convention, accompanying the festival, and dozens of open-air screenings (including on the rooftops of Kraków’s beautiful tenement houses) and events, and you get a social and film feast, packed with festivities and breathtaking views.
Where and when? Kraków at the turn of April and May
Find out more: International Film Festival of Independent Cinema Off Camera
Kraków Film Festival
If you are into revealing documentaries, you’ll feel like at home at the Kraków Film Festival. If you love music cinema, you are in for quite a feast. If you want to meet the most accomplished documentary and animation filmmakers, this festival will cater to your taste.
It was first held in 1961, which makes it a senior among Polish film festivals. And, one should add, it’s very vivacious and aware of its worth. For it is one of the most important documentary festivals in Europe and a true celebration of cinema. Winners of the festival are often considered for Academy Award nominations for best documentary, short and animation, which speaks to the festival’s quality.
Kraków Film Festival will be a special treat for anyone who loves Polish documentaries. No other festival offers as many interesting Polish productions screened in such a short time.
Where and when? Kraków at the turn of May and June
Find out more: Kraków Film Festival
Warsaw International Film Festival
Are you an omnivorous cinema aficionado? You abhor any genre constraints and care most about cinematic diversity and artistic novelty? We kindly invite you to the Warsaw International Film Festival.
The festival is the embodiment of the power of love for cinema. One of the most important festivals in Poland and the only one considered to be part of the prestigious thirteen ‘international film competitions’ (alongside Cannes, Berlin, Venice or Tokio). It was first organised in 1985 by a group of cinema enthusiasts associated with the ‘Hybrydy’ film discussion club. The capital’s film celebration started as the Warsaw Film Week, and years later morphed into the Warsaw International Film Festival. Initially chaired by Roman Gutek, since 1995 it has been organised by Stefan Laudyn. It was thanks to him that the festival came to be one of the most interesting film festivals in this part of Europe.
At Warsaw Film Festival one can stumble upon curious productions from different parts of the world. Screenings of documentaries are alternated with features while artistic experiments and Hollywood thrillers peacefully sit side by side in the festival’s programme. Most importantly, the majority of them are truly successful productions and – tickets sell out quickly! It’s best to plan ahead.
Where and when? Warsaw in October
Find out more: Warsaw International Film Festival
Millenium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival
If you love documentaries, this is a festival for you. If you want to know how our planet is changing, this is a festival for you. If you are open-minded and interested in other cultures, this is a festival for you. If you find documentaries boring, this is a festival for you – Docs Against Gravity is bound to change your mind.
It is like a mirror in which our society is reflected: here, in one night, you will learn the truth about the Indonesian genocide and the war in Syria, hear how economic and civilisational changes influence distant cultures and see people share stories about issues they grapple with every day.
The festival wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Artur Liebhart, a one-man institution with great organisational skills, who is in a committed relationship with the cinema. It is thanks to him that the festival has had fourteen successful editions and has become one of Poland’s most important film festivals.
Where and when? Warsaw-Gdynia-Bydgoszcz-Wrocław-Lublin in May
Find out more: Millenium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival
Kino Na Granicy
If you spent your childhood glued to the television, watching Krtek’s shenanigans, you worship Forman, Menzel, Zelenka and Sverak, think that Hrabal, Kundera and Kafka are the cream of the crop, and, on the top of that, you like Polish films, Cieszyn is heaven.
Beware though, Kino Na Granicy (editor’s translation: Cinema on the Border) is highly addictive. The list of its most addictive ingredients includes a lack of pretentiousness and a cosy atmosphere. Cieszyn, a half-Czech, half-Polish city goes beyond borders: the latest Polish films are mixed with screenings of the biggest Czech masterpieces, Q&A sessions featuring filmmakers from both countries and the programme often includes such cinematic oddities as the western-comedy Lemonade Joe by Oldřich Lipský or the erotic western Eukaliptus by Marcin Krzyształowicz.
But first of all, Na Granicy is a chance to meet a group of welcoming people who love cinema, Bohemian culture and... Czech beer. But beware! If you are neither a Polish-speaker or a Czech-speaker, this festival may not be for you!
Where and when? Cieszyn at the turn of April and May
Find out more: Kino Na Granicy
Koszalin Debut Film Festival, The Young & Cinema (Młodzi i Film. Koszaliński Festiwal Debiutów Filmowych)
If you feel young at heart, have a habit of dancing on a Baltic beach after every film you see, and first and foremost you want to know who will set the tone in Polish filmmaking in a few years time, pack your things and come to Koszalin. For a few summer days, Koszalin and the sea resort Mielno turn into the capital of Polish cinema. The competition features both full-length feature films as well as short debuts of young Polish directors. In addition, the festival offers screenings of the most interesting debuts from around the world. All that accompanied by Q&A sessions, concerts and all-night partying.
The Young & Cinema festival has a certain spontaneity to it, a carefree atmosphere and an artistic audacity, which often characterises young artists.
Where and when? Koszalin & Mielno in June
Find out more: Koszalin Debut Film Festival, The Young & Cinema
Sources: own materials, festivals’ official materials, compiled by BS, translated by MS, 17 Jan 2018