37th International & 33rd National Documentary & Short Film Festival in Kraków 26 May - 1 June 2000
By Lena Hermansson
The main purpose of the Cracow Film Festival is to present all major documentary, animated and short feature productions that were completed during the last season both in Poland and across the world. It has already been a long established tradition of the Kraków Festival that it has its focus predominantly on the social issues, although by no means do it shy away from other themes, be that people's profiles, formal experiment or pure entertainment.
In the International Competition run the preference is definitely for the productions originating in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, while the National Competition want to show the very best of whatever has been made in Poland.
During this years festival 70 productions in the International and 48 in the National competition were screened. Out of competition 12 documentaries by Raymond Depardon, the French documentary director and photographer who won the special prize this year "The Dragon of Dragons". From Miroslaw Kijowics production, director at the Polish school of animation, 11 films were screened. From René Laloux's production 7 films were screened, member of the International jury this year and master of French animation. The French documentary filmmaker, Chris Marker, with over fifty years of production had 5 of his films screened, and Jerzy Ziarnik, the distinguished Polish filmmaker had 8 documentaries screened.
From the rich production of "The Warsaw Documentary Filmmaking Studio" (WWFD) 38 films made from 1944 to 1990 were shown. Some documentaries from the "Polska Kronika Filmowa" were shown under the title "Year by Year with the Polish Newsreels".
Off-competition a group of films were screened under the title "World Documentary Premieres", amongst which "I was a Slave Labourer" were screened, a film that has already been on Swedish Television, and which has imposed extensive political and economical consequences on the companies who used slave labour during World War II.
The competition screening took place at the "Kijów" Cinema with room for about thousand spectators. At the small cinema "Mikro", within walking distance from "Kijów", productions off-competition were screened. As members of the jury, we had no possibility to see these films with the exception for the very late evenings- screenings, as the competition-screenings started in the morning and often not ended until late evening.
The audience at the festival were in the main young, and Cracow as a centre for culture and education gives the festival attention. Unfortunately the intensity of the festival program didn"t leave any extra time for sightseeing in the beautiful and historically very interesting city of Cracow, which I left with a wish to return to. The changes in the city and in Poland were enormous since my last visit 28 years ago. However we made a very nice trip to the salt mines in Wieliczka. We were also invited to "Centrum Manggha", the new building on the banks of river Wisla, created by Andrzej Wajda, amongst others, on the opening day of Raymond Depardon's retrospective exhibition with photos from all over the world. Depardon was one of three photographers who set up the photo agency "Gamma" in 1966.
We were three members of the jury for FICC, International Federation of Film Societies, who should award the Don Quijote Prize. Luis B. Barros, Portugal, Aleksandra Myszak, Poland, and myself, Lena Hermansson from Sweden. We communicated on a mix of French and English. The festival language was Polish, which sometimes was translated and sometimes not, which for the non Polish-speaking jury members caused some lack of information, for example at presentations of the films and at the Grand Closing Ceremony.
The Don Quijote Prize is awarded to one film in the competition screening. The prize is a diploma and a plaquette in ceramics with a picture of Don Quijote, formed like a seal. Except this prize, the jury might award two Special Distinctions to films worthy to be attended. FICC's Awards should be given to quality films which meet the criteria of film societies and which have limited chances to be distributed commercially in a big number of countries.
The Don Quijote Jury attended both the International and the National competition screenings, and we felt during the week that it was a difficult task to find THE FILM among over hundred films screened. To the final jury-meeting we brought about ten titles we would like to discuss. When listed, we found that we all had one film in common: "The Gospel According to the Papuans", produced in France. This was our winner, a film which describes the situations and the cultural smashes as an unavoidable consequence when white people imposes the Christian culture and values on a culture not yet influenced by Western societies. The story is both tragic and funny, and we from the Western world have a possibility to look upon ourselves and our values, reflected by the papuans. Our statement for awarding this film was: "For courage and fine humour in registration of unusual cultural events reflecting our attitudes towards the world".
We had a discussion whether we should award the two special Distinctions or not, and we decided to give them to "The Periwig-Maker", Germany, and to "Trans-Siberia", Finland. The animated "The Periwig-Maker" is a strange story taking place in London in the mid 17th after an epidemic has broken out. "Trans-Siberia" is a story with a double journey - the exterior one taking place on the Transsiberian Railway - and the interior one reflecting of what happens to human beings in imprisonment, where one can find a new way of exist.
It's very interesting to experience a Swedish film from a foreign perspective. The film made by Jan Troell, "92,8 MHZ...Drmmar i Sder" was a good example of how important the language and the translation could be. The story is built up around the special kind of music and lyrics we in Sweden call "dansbandsmusic", music played for dancing and longing for love or enjoying love, and the words are the main message, or the core in the film. But the lyrics had not been translated, and much of the point is missing when you cannot understand the words they are singing.
"Grandfather"s Revolutions" is a documentary made by the grandchild to Adras Hegedus, Prime Minister in Hungary during the national rising in 1956, and the responsible for calling for Soviet military intervention. Over 40 years ago - how does the grandfather remember what happened? It"s a story raising hot feelings and disgust depending on if one has experience within the former Eastblock or have seen the event from outside.
History is always a question of interpretation and the history is always written from one perspective. The decisions made are always influenced by the context in which the human being is situated.
The Russian documentary "Highway" was an unforgettable story about a circus family on their way through Kazakstan in an old bus, along the endless road which connect Russia to central Asia. They find a bird of pray which they also bring into the bus.
It is a very nice experience to have had the possibility to participate in a film festival as a jury member, and to be a representative for FICC and its work. To be able to see so many films in a short period of time, to meet so many nice people and sharing the interest for film, to change perspective - this is of great value for the future work with the film societies!
Lena Hermansson, Sveriges Förenade Filmstudios, Sweden, member of the FICC Jury.