Krakow Film Festival: Quality and Diversity

The Krakow Film Festival is over for me. I have – with this one – delivered the agreed texts for the festival newspaper and I have watched the films in the Documentary Competition to give marks together with other critics. I have enjoyed the festival and yet… I was not there in persona! I had to stay home with my wife, who had a knee injury. We had both been looking forward to be in Krakow again after more than 10 years. A film festival is a place to celebrate Film, meet all the people involved, talk about films, have fun, I did not have that pleasure, alas. I was not for the masterclass of Marcel Lozinski, I did not take part in the 20 year celebration of Kieslowski, I did not meet brothers and sisters from Sweden, who make great documentaries for the moment. I would have loved to shake hands with and hug… No, I stop now!

But thanks to the professionalism and generosity of press spokeswoman Anna E. Dziedzic, with whom I have been in daily contact, and who have directed me to photos, texts, etc. on FB, Youtube, instagram and the website, I have felt the festival and am able to make this concluding text, a kind of conclusion, my impression of the competitive programme and the selection for that category, that included 19 films.

Like most documentary festivals it is obvious that the selection committee has been searching to cover themes of today: The war in Ukraine (“Alisa in Warland”, stupid title but fine film by a film student), “The Burden of Proof”, one more film about the big immigration issue in current Europe, “Employment Office”, I could repeat the sentence from before, unhappy people who are looking for a job and meet bureaucracy, “Life on the Border”, children in refugee camps depicting their situation in often very moving short clips, they are victims of ISIS, a film about Boris Nemtsov…

“I am looking forward to real life”, says the bearded, old man in the fine Canadian film “Manor” (PHOTO). “Here we don’t live, we just exist”, he says, as the psychiatric hospital, where he has stayed is closing down. I was very impressed by this well made, warm documentary as I was to see Wojciech Kasperski’s stunning “Icon” from a psychiatric hospital in Siberia. I remember his “Seeds” from 10 years ago, he is able to bring a philosophical element into his observation of human beings, who are outside our so-called normality.

The documentary competition programme is definitely characterized by seriousness. I could have wished for a bit more stylistical playfulness like there is in Piotr Stasik’s excellent New York film, in “Homo Sacer”, in the amazing Brazilian “Curumim” and in “The Nine” that has a social focus and a surprising way of telling a story about outsiders.

On the other hand, I don´t want to forget Swedish Sara Broos and her “Reflections” that is both very personal, joyful and painful at the same time, and on a constant search for a style, a way of telling a story, to make an aesthetic choice. Which are what so many Polish documentarians do and which is what a festival like the Krakow Film Festival wants us to appreciate. We do!

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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