The Krakow Film Festival is one of the oldest and most recognisable events devoted to documentary, animated, and short films. During the festival, audiences have a chance to see over 200 international films, presented in various competition and non-competition sections.
With the 2023 Krakow Film Festival scheduled to run from 28 May to 4 June in person and from 2 to 18 June online, we had the opportunity to speak with its Festival Director, Krzystof Gierat. In our conversation, we explore the role of the festival in the crowded continental landscape, the evolution of Polish documentary, and its continued focus on music documentaries.
I want to be a memorable host, someone people remember.
As Festival Director, how do you define your role and responsibilities?
I feel responsible for everything; initially, I wanted to have a say in every little detail. But over 20 years, I’ve learned to trust my colleagues, so I mostly focus on the programming side. I want to have a say in the films we showcase in Krakow and how our guests are treated. I want to be a memorable host, someone people remember.
What role does KFF play within the wider continental festival landscape? For example, is there a specific look and/or feel to a film that is likely to appear on the KFF programme?
I aim to maintain the privileged position of our festival. We qualify films for the Oscars and recommend them for the EFA. I mainly look for new films yet to be shown, but I’m open to including award-winning ones from other festivals. I want films that tackle important global issues but are executed masterfully and feature charismatic characters.
Discuss the evolution of Polish documentary. The country’s documentary style tends to lean toward observational docs traditionally. Why is this the case? How do you see its evolution as a genre in the country? Where does the festival’s Doc Lab Poland stand in this evolution?
For me, Polish documentary filmmaking is all about sensitivity and original filmmaking style. It’s not just about the visuals but also the meticulous editing, music, and so on. I hope that Polish documentary filmmakers will continue seeking extraordinary subjects in Poland and beyond that demand critical but compassionate exploration.
One aspect of the festival that is consistently a part of the programme is dedicated to music documentary. Can you explain why the festival chooses this sub-genre of documentary as a consistent aspect of the programme? What is it about this subgenre that allows it to appear on more and more festival programmes?
I love music, and I believe it has the power to tell stories that go beyond other art forms. Music documentaries go far beyond simple artist portraits or concert recordings. They delve into the history of nations or explore marital relationships. Even when they depict the biographies of stars, they immerse themselves in a world that often had a dramatic impact on their lives.
Finally, are there any seminal films, filmmakers or filmographies that initially brought your interest in documentary?
I come from a generation raised on Krzysztof Kieślowski and Marcel Łoziński. They form the foundation of Polish cinema for us. But as the festival director, I started when Marcin Koszałka debuted with his scandalous film about his parents. So I’m familiar with different shades of documentary and remain very open-minded. As a director, I only ask for one thing from filmmakers: honesty.