Still from Elżbieta Benkowska's film "Olena"
With Roman Polański's latest feature in the main competition, the brightest young talents in shorts, animations and docs round out the Polish programme at Europe's most illustrious film festival
Elżbieta Benkowska's Olena is among nine films from across Europe, the Middle East and Asia in the running for the shorts competition at the Cannes Film Festival's 66th edition. Małgorzata Rżanek's animated film Danse macabre competes in the animation category, while Bartek Konopka's Art of Disappearing, produced by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, tackles the market section.
Inspired by her own experience, Benkowska's 17-minute short tells the story of a pair of young Ukrainians traveling across Poland to Sweden by train. Olena (Oksana Terefenko) and Dima (Igor Aronov) get into a tussle when one discovers their wallet has been stolen and their passports are thrown off the train. Their endeavours at recovery reveal the truth about their expedition. The film, produced by the Gdynia Film School, where the 24-year-old director studies, competes against shorts from France, Belgium, Iran and South Korea. For the first time in the festival's history, a Palestinian director is on the shortlist.
The Cinéfondation competition presents 18 student films, chosen from among 277 submitted for this year's festival. Małgorzaty Rżanek's black-and-white film Danse macabre is one of four animations in the category, a hypnotic, humorous picture about evanescence and death. The film was produced by the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Three Cinéfondation Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony prior to the screening of the winning films on the 24th of May in the Buñuel Theatre, with Jane Campion as jury president.Winners in all major sections will be announced on the festival's closing day, the 26th of May.
The festival opens on the 15th of May with a screening of Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring. Among the films in the main competition is Roman Polański's Venus in Fur, based David Ives' award-winning play about a playwright-director and his unlikely muse derived from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s notorious 1870 book.
Poland is also represented at Cannes' Marché du Film, the industry's market for promising new films, with three documentaries: Bartek Konnopka and Piotr Rosołowski's Art of Disappearing, Maciej Drygas' Abu Haraz and Michał Marczak's salacious flick Fuck for Forest.
In an interview with Culture.pl, Planete Doc + Film Festival director Artur Liebhart explained that the presence of the three documentaries in Cannes is tied in with the Doc Alliance federation of film festivals, of which Planete Doc + is a partner. In May, the Cannes Film Festival announces a documentary competition, with Fuck for Forest among the seven candidates submitted by the Doc Alliance. The film delves into the gritty reality of the nonprofit environmental organisation whose members make pornographic material or have sex in public to raise money for good causes.
Abu Haraz is an film essay on a small village in Sudan. Rather than focus on themes of violence and hunger, Drygas treats the topics of longing and loss through protagonists whom he'd gotten to know over a period of six years. The film premieres in Warsaw at the Planete Doc + festival.
As the director described the origins of the film in a recent statement to the press, he initially thought he would create a universal story of a disappearing world and the work of archaeologists - yet his story took a more human turn.
What I experienced in this desert, with these people, is something very important, perhaps the most important in my life. The process of finding a way to tell their story wasn't easy. First of all, it was hard to explain to the people of Abu Haraz what we were doing. For them a film was an entirely abstract thing. And in Arabic the word "film" means both to "make a film" and "to lie". I had to explain it somehow and I finally said: listen, we're your memory, there won't be any Abu Haraz but you'll have this footage. It's a remarkable, beautiful world. Very tough. A world that gave me a great deal.
Art of Disappearing is also an intriguing, mysterious picture about changing worlds. Made by the duo behind the Oscar-nominated documentary Rabbit à la Berlin of 2009, it is in the main competition of Switzerland's Visions du Réel festival. It is the story of links between Haiti and Poland through the legacy of Poles in Napoleon's imperial army who settled on the island after the failed invasion. Amon Frémon, a Haitian voodoo priest of Polish descent, performs a voodoo ceremony for General Jaruzelski, convinced he is possessed by evil spirits.
Eight short films: features, animations and documentaries, Cannes' Short Film Corner is yet another section to present Polish works. Michael Rendell's When the Man Comes Around with cinematography by Arthur Izakowicz is a 25-minute film shot in Malmö, Sweden, that was funded through crowdfunding and finished in 2012. Inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper, the motion picture is "An existential, romantic film noir about the Grim Reaper’s right-hand man, the Collector. [...] But when his secret love interest one day appears on his protocol, he is forced to make a crucial decision which could upset the balance between the real world and the world where the shadows dwell".
The section also presents Rogalik, a 17-minute short from 2012 created by the 31-year-old Paweł Ziemilski as a project for his programme at the Łódz Film School. Thanks to imaginative camera work, images usually considered ugly and unappealing are shown in a new light. The Short Film Corner will also screens Jagoda Szelc's Taki pejzaż / Such a landscape, Marta Karwowska's Sowa / Owl about an 8-year-old girl whose secret dream becomes reality, Karolina Specht's humorous Historia o miłości / Story about Love, Anita Kwiatkowska-Naqvi's Ab Ovo, Renata Gąsiorowska's Łukasz i Lotta / Łukasz and Lotta and Paweł Maj's Ogień / Fire about the ghosts of our past which change the lives of the living.
A meeting place for professionals from all over the world organised within the framework of the Cannes Film Festival since 2004, "the Short Film Corner is the essential rendez-vous for filmmakers". For more information on the Short Film Corner, see: Cannes Court Metrages
The 2013 Cannes Film Festival takes place between the 15th and the 26th of May. For more information, see: www.festival-cannes.fr
The 2013 Planete Doc + festival takes place between the 12th and the 19th of May in both Warsaw and Wrocław. For more information, see: planetedocff.pl
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart