«We are very happy to come back to the natural festival’s environment»

    KRAKOW FILM FESTIVAL: Head of Programme's Barbara Orlicz-Szczypuła on the festival's 61st edition.

    The 61st Krakow Film Festival is set to take place from 30 May to 6 June 2021 as hybrid experience.

    Krakow Film Festival is one of the oldest and most recognisable events devoted to documentary, animated, and short films. During its duration, audiences have a chance to see about 250 films from around the world, presented in multiple competing and non-competing sections. The screenings are complemented with Q&As, workshops, exhibitions, concerts and KFF Industry events including presentations of new Polish documentary and animated projects.

    Modern Times Review spoke with its Head of Programme Barbara Orlicz-Szczypuła on the challenges, trends, and future of Krakow Film Festival.

    What makes a Krakow Film Festival film? What sort of criteria do you look for in submissions when making selections?
    We always do a very deep research when starting selection of films for the festival. We observe what’s going on in the industry, we participate in the festivals, markets, pitching forums and observe the trends, what filmmakers are interested in, what films are going to be ready for the festival’s year. And of course we watch carefully the films which were submitted to our selection. We are trying to bring into the programme films which touched us, which made our discussions very long, which are controversial or not, but beautifully filmed, films with strong protagonists or films about important topics. There are different reasons why this and not other film is chosen. We had a group of programmers, people with different experience, different professions and they open our minds for different perspectives. I think that our programme is very various thanks to them. Of course, we have our formal requirements like year of production, running time, or premiere status, which are also important.

    Did you find any common themes amongst this year’s pool of submissions? If so, did they translate into the final programme?
    We expected that there will be a lot of films about the life in pandemic, but there weren’t. Of course films about it were submitted and we have some in the programme but it wasn’t the dominant topic. It’s difficult to tell if there was any topic more popular, we found a lot of films about sport, politics, but in general the stories were very various.

    We expected that there will be a lot of films about the life in pandemic, but there weren’t.

    This year’s programme has a focus on Norwegian films? Why?
    #Norway is a country with very interesting cinematography, but it is not so well known in Poland, especially if we talk about documentary films. So, we want to bring these excellent films closer to the Polish audience. Moreover, during last two editions of the festival, Norwegian films received the important prizes at KrakowFF, let me mention The Self Portrait by Margreth Olin, Espen Wallin and Katja Hogset – the Audience Award of 2020 edition, Once Aurora by Stian Servoss and Benjamin Langeland – the best music documentary in 2019 and Men’s Room by Petter Sommer and Jo Vemud Svendsen – Audience Award winner of 2019. By the way it looks that Norwegian filmmakers like to work in collective!

    Do you think that there will ever be a purely, 100% physical festival again? Meaning, will an online component be standard moving forward? Either because of accessibility or financing.
    I think that there is no back toward the purely physical festival anymore. We and probably many other festivals discovered the positive side of an online programme. There are different models – VoD or festival virtual cinema, how we do it in Krakow, and both may bring a new audience from outside the cities where the festival is located. At Krakow, we had an almost twofold increase in the viewers’ number in 2020 and many of them have asked us if there will be an online edition this year. So, I think that there are two reasons to keep this: meeting the viewers’ expectations and to create one more opportunity for filmmakers to present their films. Of course, it all depends on the strategy of distributors and sales agents since the marker has changed during last year.

    we had an almost twofold increase in the viewers’ number in 2020 and many of them have asked us if there will be an online edition this year.

    Describe a little about your planning for 2021? Did you organise several scenarios depending on health & safety measures? Now that cinema will be open, do you think the festival had an influence on this government decision?
    Before the official government’s decision about the opening of the cinemas was announced, we were ready for the online version of the festival. We improved the functionality of our streaming platform and solved some technical issues. But we were also ready to start organising the physical festival, however, we had to wait for the government’s decision. Together with other festivals in Poland associated in the Film Festivals’ Forum (which we created last year to discuss the situation in our sector), we sent an official letter to the authorities asking for clear information about when we can expect the opening of the cinemas. It is difficult to say if it helped but finally, the cinemas have opened in Poland on 21st May, so a week before our festival’s start. Of course, there are restrictions connected with the possible capacity: only 50% of seats are allowed, the viewers must wear masks and keep the distance. So, there will be fewer people in the cinemas this year but despite, we are very happy to come back to the natural festival’s environment.

    Can you describe a documentary that was seminal in developing your personal interest with the genre?
    Albert and David Maysles Grey Gardens, Marcel Łoziński 89mm from Europe

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    Steve Rickinson
    Communications Manager at Modern Times Review.
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