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    Opening New Horizons in Wroclaw

    By Martin Blaney | August 19, 2011

    In photo, Jury member Martin Blaney with prize-winners Wilhelm and Anna Sasnal (It Looks Pretty From A Distance), courtesy Martin Blaney

    In photo, Jury member Martin Blaney with prize-winners Wilhelm and Anna Sasnal (It Looks Pretty From A Distance), courtesy Martin Blaney

    Just over five hours by EuroCity train from Berlin, the Polish city of Wroclaw was host again in July for the 11th edition of the New Horizons International Film Festival which sold more than 110,000 tickets in its eleven days.

    As founder Roman Gutek said in his introduction to this year’s catalogue, “from the beginning, we have consistently promoted artistic cinema – uncompromising, seeking new and interesting forms, beyond cultural and social taboo. And such films can be found in the international New Horizons competition. Artistic films, shocking the viewer, not easily comforting but staying within us, forcing us to reflect on human nature, allowing a better understanding of ourselves and the surrounding reality.”

    The lineup for this year’s New Horizons International Competition certainly lived up to this remit and included Urszula Antoniak’s Code Blue, Nanouk Leopold’s Brownian Movement, Daniel Cockburn’s You Are Here.

    The Grand Prix was awarded to Greek filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari for her drama Attenberg which had premiered at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.

    Accepting the award from last year’s Grand Prix winner Anocha Suwichakornpong, Tsangari said that she was “particularly moved” to receive this award at “a festival which loves and respects cinema” and dedicated her prize to her cast, crew and Greek cinema.

    The New Horizons International Competition Jury, which also included filmmakers Denis Côté and Hugo Vieira da Silva, gave a Special Mention to Hungary’s Sándor Kardos whose Gravedigger also took home the FIPRESCI Award, while the International Film Guide Award was handed out to Nanouk Leopold’s Brownian Movement.

    Meanwhile, the Audience Award went to Argentinian director Paula Markovitch’s debut The Prize which had been in competition at the Berlinale last February.

    At the same time, Asia scored twice over in the Films On Art International Competition where the main prize was accepted in person by the leading Korean director Kim Ki-duk for his documentary Arirang and Special Mention to Pyuupiru 2001-2008 by Japan’s Daishi Matsunagi.

    Thanks to the awards, Attenberg, Arirang, Gravedigger and The Prize have guaranteed theatrical and DVD distribution in Poland by the New Horizons Association, the organizer of the festival.

    Meanwhile, the two prizes in this year’s New Polish Films Competition went to feature debuts: the Wroclaw Film Award was presented to It Looks Pretty From A Distance by co-directors Wilhelm and Anna Sasnal, and the prize for Best Debut went to Jan Komasa for his techno-thriller Suicide Room which had its world premiere in the Berlinale’s Panorama Special section last February.

    German cinema was well represented throughout the festival, beginning with veteran filmmaker Werner Nekes who served on the jury of the Films on Art Competition and was also the subject of a retrospective showing early experimental films from as early as 1967 through to a six-part documentary series Media Magica devoted to the director’s private collection of objects, machines, optical illusions and the beginning of cinema.

    An exhibition entitled Rub Your Eyes with artefacts from Nekes’ collection going back as far as the 16th century were presented in the Awangarda and Design Galleries in Wroclaw as part of the Kultursaison NRW in Polen 2011/2012.

    In addition, there were special screenings of Wim Wenders’ 3D dance documentary Pina as well as the Josef Mach’s Die Söhne der grossen Bärin (The Sons Of Great Bear, GDR, 1966), and Richard Groschopp’s Chingachgook. Die große Schlange (Chingachgook: The Great Snake,GDR, 1967), both starring Gojko Mitic, showing as part of the Red Westerns sidebar which had previously been shown at Rotterdam and Linz’s Crossing Europe this year.

    Moreover, three Polish short films made as part of the Leipzig-based Ostpol initiative between young German and Polish filmmakers were invited to take part in the Polish Shorts Competition: Igor Chojna’s Plama (The Stain), Bartosz Warwas’ Mruczanka na 4 Rakietki (The Black Cat’s Ping-Pong Tale) and Justyna Tafei’s Poranek (A Morning).

    Other highlights at this edition included the retrospectives dedicated to the Polish director Andrzej Munk (Man On Track and Eroica, among others) as well to filmmakers Terry Gilliam, Bruno Dumont, Anja Breien and the Polish animator-cartoonist Mariusz Wilczynski.

    At the closing ceremony, Wilczynski showed a two-minute trailer for a new “work in progress” Kill It And Leave The Town. The film won’t be ready until 2013, but he has already recorded the voices for the characters with a cast including Andrzej Wajda, Krystyna Janda, Daniel Olbrychski, Zbigniew Bonek as himself, and Gustav Holoubek in his last role.

    Moreover, New Horizons’ festival president Roman Gutek announced that Mexican cinema will be the focus of the 2012 edition of the festival (July 19-29) with a retrospective dedicated to one of its key figures Carlos Reygadas as well as further retrospectives on the work of the veteran Serbian director Dusan Makaveyev, Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl and the experimental author Peter Tscherkassky.

    But even before this, the New Horizons team will be kept busy as they are staging the Funny Games EU programme of films for the European Culture Congress, which is being held in Wroclaw from September 8-11 to coincide with the Informal Meeting of EU Culture Ministers, and then organising the second American Film Festival (AFF) from November 15-20.

    Apart from retrospectives dedicated to Billy Wilder and Joe Swanberg, AFF’s showcase of contemporary American cinema has already invited such titles as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut Jack Goes Boating, Jonas Mekas’ Sleepless Nights Stories, Massy Tadjedin’s Last Night, Clay Jeter’s Jess + Moss, Andrea Blaugrund’s The Other F-word, and Almy Har’el’s Bombay Beach.

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