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    Warsaw Film Festival 2010

    By Martin Blaney | October 27, 2010

    The music of Chopin was literally in the air during this year’s Warsaw Film Festival (8-17 October) which was held parallel with the 16th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition on the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

    Strolling along Poland’s most prestigious street Krakowskie Przedemiescie near the festival hotel, visitors to the Polish capital could activate a button on street benches to hear various works by the national composer being played. The competitions were broadcast live on local radio, and a daily magazine in Polish and English was distributed throughout the town together with a CD selection of the entrants’ performances.

    However, the film festival was not to be left out and offered its own very special celebration of the Chopin anniversary. An extract from one of Chopin’s piano concertos was played over the official festival trailer before each film screening (the trailer can be accessed at the festival website www.wff.pl).

    Now in its second year of belongíng to FIAPF’s hallowed list of so-called “A” festivals, Warsaw has always been keen to show the latest new feature films and documentaries “made in Germany”.

    First-time filmmaker Burhan Qurbani travelled directly from Frankfurt where he had picked up the Hessen Film Prize for Best Feature Film to introduce his debut Shahada in person in Warsaw. Shahada had had its world premiere in competition at the Berlinale in February and is now travelling around the festival circuit with such recent stops as Budapest and Doha.

    The festival also invited, among others, Matti Geschonneck’s Berlin, Boxhagener Platz. Katrin Gödrös’ Locarno competition title Songs Of Love and Hate and Feo Aladag’s ubiquitous Die Fremde (When We Leave) as well as presenting German Films’ Next Generation programme of shorts from German film schools.

    In addition, producer Alexander Ris of Leipzig/Berlin-based Mediopolis Filmproduktion was in town to represent Srdjan Koljevic’s The Woman With A Broken Nose which had won the top prize in Zurich and will be the opening film at the 20th anniversary edition of Filmfestival Cottbus on November 2 (the gentle comedy is also screening at the Hof Film Days this week).

    Meanwhile, the festival hosted the world premiere of Silvia Beck’s documentary portrait of Nyman In Progress about the acclaimed British film composer Michael Nyman and also showed Munich Film School (HFF) graduate Fatima Geza Abdollahyan’s debut Kick in Iran. This portrait of the first Iranian taekwondo athlete to qualify for the Olympics subsequently received a Special Mention from the Documentary Features Jury for being a “real ‘kick off’ in the fight for gender equality!”

    Moreover, Björn Richie Lob’s Keep Surfing about Munich’s “mecca” for river-surfing (a big hit at the Filmfest München in 2009) was voted Best Documentary by the festival audience in the voting for this year’s Audience Awards.

    The International Jury led by UK director Antonia Bird and including veteran German sales agent Wolfram Skowronnek-Schaer awarded the Warsaw Grand Prix to French Canadian Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies (Scorched), describing it as “a devastatingly beautiful and powerful film”. Meanwhile, Best Director honours deservedly went to Belgian director Olivier Masset-Depasse for his hard hitting Illegal which the Jury praised as “a mesmerizing, shocking and profoundly moving experience.”

    The CentEast Market, the festival’s industry arm, was held for the sixth time this year for participants to catch the latest crop of Polish films, including Marcin Wrona’s award-winning The Christening, Krzysztof Nowinski and Dominika Dlugokecka’s documentary 50/50 (which had its world premiere at Filmfest Hamburg at the beginning of October) and Damian Nenow’s 3D stereoscopic short The City Of Ruins which digitally reconstructs the city of Warsaw at the end of the Second World War.

    This year also saw the second collaboration with the Russian production company TVIndie and the Moscow-based 2Morrow Film Festival to stage the presentation of seven “works in progress” from Eastern Europe looking for sales agents and festival invitations.

    Moreover, the Berlin-based fellowship initiative, the Nipkow Programm, was in town for three days of brainstorming on its participants’ projects. This year’s intake had included the filmmakers Alvaro Brechner and Hanna Slak, and producers Fabian Massah and Gabor Sipos.

    And – ever with an eye for supporting the next generation – the festival once more hosted the Warsaw FIPRESCI Project allowing a select number of young film critics from Eastern Europe to attend one of the region’s leading film festivals. This year’s participants were Alexandra Buzas from Romania, David Klag from Hungary, Artavazd Yeghiazaryan from Armenia and Magdalena Dzibik from Poland.

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