Krakow Film Festival – Who Will Win

I was not in Krakow for the festival this year, but I saw the films in the main international competition and gave my points together with other film journalists – and made 4 texts for the Daily Newspaper, which is edited by kind and competent Anna E. Dziedzic from the festival. My last text delivered yesterday was my overall impression of the films in the category mentioned. Here it comes and when the awards are given later this evening, I will make a post and you can see if my impressions match those of a jury. Here is my text:

Comments to our time. Interpretation of subjects that touch world-wide. Creative documentaries. Character driven… it’s all there in the 2019 selection for Krakow Film Festival, the international section with 16 titles. Diversity, also in quality, from my point of view, take a look at the critic’s mark system, where some get high and some low marks.

Were there any extra-ordinary films. Any that stood out ? In terms of subject and cinematic interpretation? “Of Animals and Men” did for me. The film by Łukasz Czajka, 56 mins., touched me because of the shocking story about how the German invasion and occupation during WW2 destroyed the life of the Warsaw Zoo. For men and animals – telling at the same time about the bravery of the couple Antonina and Jan Żabińskis, who let Jews hide in the empty zoo, where the animals had stayed, or at their own home. As the brutality of the Germans increased, the risk of being captured became bigger for those hiding. Jan helped providing documents for the Jews, getting many out from the ghetto, Antonina likewise, and she was the one, who played Offenbach on the piano when dangerous situations came up, and Chopin when the Germans had left again. The film is well made mixing archive, interviews and a fine voice-over based on Antonina’s memoirs. And no, I have not seen the fiction film based on this amazing story.

Dutch “But Now is Perfect” (Photo) by Carin Goeijers also impressed me. The fate of a refugee… nothing new, unfortunately, in that, but the director has made an aesthetical choice that makes content and style match each other perfectly. You move around in the Calabrian town that has set up a good model for having refugees integrated in its life in a story that is told backwards. With a Nigerian woman as the lead character, full of life, charismatic, hoping…

From Italian Calabria to New York, to follow the life of another refugee, René from Mexico, in “The Fourth Dimension”. He lives in a small community, “Sure We Can”, where, under the supervision of Ana, formerly UN employed, homeless and alchoholics (like René who is now sober) end up and can calm down, away from the rough life outside the metal curtain, that is taken down every night. The film has several layers, the fine social initiative is one but the inner life of René, his yearning for another life, his interest in aliens from other planets, his dreams and hopes, his quiet life with cats, kittens and chicken is conveyed in a cinematically skilled tone by the two Spanish directors Àlex Lora Cercós and Adán Aliga.

Krakow Film Festival has always had Israeli documentaries in its program, this year is no exception. I was touched by the silent drama of the dying old Palestinian man in “Around the Bed of a Dying Collaborator” by David Ofek and Tal Michael. “Forgive me”, he says to his sons, for working for the Israelis, having sold Palestinian land to Jews making the family’s life a true hell. AND the big international coproduction “The Advocate” by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche about the Israeli hero lawyer Lea Tsemel, who for decades have taken lost cases for Palestinians, who have committed murder or other criminal attacks to be punished by the Israeli state. Bellaiche, also the cameraman, again shows, like in the films he did for Avi Mograbi, his talent for bringing the audience close to subject and character.

Will any of these films be awarded, or will „The Wind. A Documentary Thriller“, that I wrote about in the first daily, or «Wongar“ or „Pariah Dog“, mentioned in the second newspaper.

A jury will decide.

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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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