National competition at the 64th KFF

The National Competition of the 64th Krakow Film Festival promises a showcase of 40 outstanding and incredibly diverse Polish documentaries and short films. The competition for the Golden Hobby-Horses is going to feature titles crafted by both seasoned masters and emerging talents. All these cinematic gems will be available for viewing in late May and early June in Krakow’s art-house cinemas, as well as online on KFF VOD.

If my calculations are correct, no less than seven filmmakers behind this year’s films had been previously awarded in Krakow, with Tomasz Wolski leading the pack with ten accolades! In addition, five others are returning with new titles. We welcome such comebacks with open arms. However, we also eagerly anticipate the arrival of new faces, to introduce their achievements to both the audience and the numerous members of the foreign film industry. After all, our festival often marks the beginning of an international career, concludes Krzysztof Gierat, director of the Krakow Film Festival.

Six Polish titles have been invited to participate in two international competitions. Competing for the Golden Horn are the latest documentaries by Agnieszka Zwiefka and Tomasz Wolski. Zwiefka’s Silent Trees presents a poignant portrait of a Kurdish family that crossed the Polish-Belarusian border and is now trying to find its place in a new reality. Meanwhile, A Year in the Life of the Country marks another archival project by the award-winning director. This time, Wolski delves into the theme of martial law.

Three titles have secured their spots in the International Short Film Competition. The documentary Submarine is a deeply intimate story by director Oliwia Zakrzewska. A young, independent mother is striving to find some space in her life to take care of herself. In Joko, the latest animated film by Izabela Plucińska, the grotesque world of Roland Topor is once again brought to life with plasticine. In the second animated film, Me, Monster (dir. Zofia Tomalska), we see a confrontation with fear. Meanwhile, Mohammed Almughanni’s Polish-French fiction film An Orange from Jaffa – the winner of the Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand – is a gripping film that shows the Palestinian-Israeli border shortly before the beginning of the current conflict.

For the second time, four equal Golden Hobby-Horses will be awarded in the National Competition. This will allow creators of different film formats to have a chance for the highest awards. Golden Hobby-Horses will be presented to the best medium- or feature-length documentary film and, among short films, to the best animated short, the best fiction film, and the best documentary short.

A Child’s Gaze

In the National Competition, there will be several films exploring the experiences of children, teenagers, and adults confronting their past. Awarded at the prestigious Visions du Réel, the medium-length documentary Koka, takes us to the coast of the Bering Sea, where time has stood still. Director Aliaksandr Tsymbaliuk follows the titular protagonist who – from a young age and under his father’s watchful eye – learns the practical skills necessary to survive in the challenging conditions of this part of the globe. We’re going to venture north again, but somewhat closer and in the company of an eight-year-old girl. The protagonist Lili (dir. Sylwia Rosak) is trying to understand the adult world. She lives in Norway, where her parents emigrated, but they are no longer together. As part of their time together, her father takes her on backpacking trips, an opportunity to deepen their relationship. Not all parents are like Lili’s father. The protagonists of the documentary Debtors are well aware of this fact.

As a gesture of solidarity with his own mother, director Andrzej Danic decides to stage a scene in which she wins a court case for child support. During the process, he meets people who have also been harmed by alimony-avoiding parents.

Two animated shorts present a very painful look at childhood. In Nabu (dir. Joanna Rusinek), a girl’s carefree childhood is cut short by bombs falling on her village. Brave Nabu tries to escape and find a safe home. This incredibly sad animated film about the fate of refugees is shown from a child’s perspective and told with great sensitivity and subtlety. Although Nutcracker Girl is set place inside a house, it is hard to consider this place safe. Michalina Musialik draws inspiration from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s novella and Tchaikovsky’s music but instead of a children’s fairy tale, we get a dark fable about crossing boundaries.

Difficult emotions are also present in the short documentary Dust. Paweł Chorzępa focuses on 19-year-old Konrad Dąbrowski, who inherited a dangerous fascination from his father – a Polish motorsport legend. The young man is going through a crisis during the world’s toughest rally (Dakar). The father comes to his aid. A profoundly important conversation between a father and a son takes place in the short fiction film From You. Jędrzej Gorski portrays two men during an important but challenging moment in their lives, with the spirit of their grandfather, a well-known journalist, hovering over everything. A slightly different view of a child’s perception of their father is depicted by Marcin Podolec in his new animated film Potatoes. With a long list of expectations for his son, the father makes the young boy feel inadequate. The situation changes when he becomes a parent himself.

Crazy Loves

With or without a happy ending. Feelings for people, animals, and life itself – able to enchant with their randomness. The latter perfectly describes the short fiction film Ends and Beginnings. The film by Klaudia Fortuniak begins at the end, or rather starts with a kiss that is going to happen in the future, with numerous micro-stories unfolding along the way, all leading to a surprising finale. Along the way, numerous micro-stories unfold, leading to a surprising finale.

Anna has an enormous heart. The protagonist of Everything Needs to Live (dir. Tetiana Dorodnitsyna, Andrii Lytvynenko) has been an animal lover since childhood, but ultimately, she pursued a career in sports. At the age of 40, she embarked on a career as a powerlifter and soon became a multiple world champion and the strongest woman in the world. Using the power of social media, she campaigned for animal rights, founded shelters, and sought new families for dozens of stray dogs and cats. A new challenge arises with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Anna’s homeland.

Julita, the protagonist of Commes Des Cowboys (dir. Julia Sadowska), also loves animals – especially horses. Julita works at a stable, where her teenage love returns after many years. Will the feelings reignite? The hero of Here For You also meets his beloved at work. Bartek works with his mother at a funeral home. After one of the burials, he meets a girl and shares some intimate moments with her. The protagonists of Cezary Orłowski’s film have trisomy 21 syndrome, so their relationship may not be among the easiest. This is something Magda and Michał, actors from the famous Theatre 21, soon discover. Martyna Peszko becomes a gentle observer of their Crazy Love.

There’s also plenty of craziness in Stimulants & Empathogens. Mateusz Pacewicz’s romantic comedy of errors tells the story of boys from two completely different worlds. However, love knows no bounds, and cinema knows no genre boundaries. Hence, alongside romance, there’s action, family drama, and plenty of humour.

Life Abroad

To stay or to come back? These are the questions that accompany all migrants. The fates of several of them will be presented in the National Competition. The three protagonists of the documentary Otherland travelled to Poland from Ingushetia, located in the Caucasus. Director Piotr Wysocki accompanies them for 10 years, observing their highs and lows as they attempt to assimilate to their new homeland. It seems that there are no lows in the case of the protagonist of Piotr Kielar’s film. Grzegorz Rosiński, one of the most renowned Polish comic book creators, known for his illustrations for Thorgal. Having lived abroad for years and tired of his current work, he decides to retire. I, Rosiński is an excellent portrait of a man who’s equally successful and tired, yet does not lose his creative enthusiasm.

The protagonist of Tiger Soup (dir. Kacper Świtalski) also fled from a similar gray communist reality. In the 1970s Stanisław, a welder, gets a stab at pursuing his American dream. He sets for the United States to work in the world’s largest and oldest traveling circus. The protagonist of Piotr Kabat’s animated film also ventures across the ocean. The young director of All My Fucking Superheroes tries to conquer Hollywood. However, before he gets there, a taxi driver takes him on a wild ride through American streets, cinema history, and pop culture.

The Power of Resistance by Elżbieta Benkowska is set in the 1980s. The political idealism and hopes for a better tomorrow held by actress Olga are put to the toughest of tests. The authoritarian, all-knowing communist regime decides to break her resolve when her father is hospitalized and fighting for his life, and her husband remains in custody.

Life On The Go

Hard physical labour, intellectual struggles, and artistic pursuits that allow self-expression. The latter perfectly describe the protagonist of the short documentary Needle (dir. Józef Gros). After years of living in Canada, Oskar returns to Kraków. He brings a baggage of difficult life experiences and a plan for the near future – tattooing.

Andrzej Seweryn is another incredibly hardworking individual. The hero of this year’s opening film, I Am the Creation of Fiction, is constantly in motion. He’s an actor, director, manager, philanthropist, and – in Arkadiusz Bartosiak’s film – primarily a person who never rests on his laurels and is always seeking new challenges. The film by Konrad Szołajski was also shot on the go. The director of Putin’s Playground, together with the film’s producer, embarks on a journey to answer questions about the threats that Central and Eastern Europe may face from the Russian regime.

The protagonist of In My Hands is a young, determined man who, despite only having one hand, aspires to become a hero by being a firefighter and a father. Director Igor Kuna is primarily focused on depicting the two most important roles the protagonist plays in life and how they constantly intertwine.

In Piotr Milczarek’s new animation, There Will Be No Other End, the world doesn’t stop. The revolution that ends before it even begins, much like the senseless and humiliating work of serving the wealthier

It accompanies the elderly, the sick, sometimes those in long-term relationships, and it can also come suddenly after the loss of a loved one. Stories about loneliness were also present in the National Competition. Surely, it was felt the most during the pandemic. It was during the lockdown, when contact with other people was severely limited, that the documentary Only Day and Night was created. The most common means of communication at that time was the internet, which director Grzegorz Brzozowski utilized to converse with individuals who, like him, were stuck alone in their apartments. A phone also proves helpful to the elderly lady in Do You Hear Me? (dir. Magdalena Sienicka). Her grandson is not interested in his grandmother’s stories, unfortunately. The protagonist of The Peter Plan cannot take advantage of the tools used by the characters in Brzozowski’s and Sienicka’s films. It’s hard for us to imagine a day without a phone or a computer. But what if using electricity caused unbearable pain? Grzegorz Pacek tells the fascinating story of a modern-day Robinson Crusoe who has been suffering from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS) for 15 years.

Listening to Loneliness

Loneliness in relationships comes unannounced. Staszek and Alinka from the short fiction film Honey Bunny know this too well. Intimacy has disappeared between the mature couple, leaving only empty rituals of watching nature programs together. Soon, everything is going to change. The film by Gracjana Piechula is a gentle work that tenderly embraces the viewer and makes them feel better. The next fiction film seems like a direct opposite – a dark drama with thriller and horror elements, The Mandala (dir. Mikołaj Janik). It tells the story of a woman and mother who lost her beloved husband and the pain of loss begins to seep into her everyday life, disrupting the relationship with her son. It’s a dark drama with elements of thriller and horror.

DJ Edee Dee, or Edward Gil-Deskur, a legendary figure in the Krakow club scene, handles loneliness quite well. The protagonist of Are You There? (dir. Xawery Deskur) was born with congenital glaucoma and soon loses his sight completely. Artificial intelligence helps him adapt to his new reality.

Don’t Call Me

For many years, they have been taboo topics. Mental illnesses, depression, chaos, a darkness that pierces the body. In three short animated films, three female directors tell us about what lurks in our minds in a surprising and incredibly diverse way. In Betina Bożek’s film the protagonist lives in a glass Rubik’s cube. Her job is to ensure that everything is orderly, clean, and symmetrical. One day, she accidentally injures her foot, and chaos begins to invade her orderly life. Thus, in Codex, the battle begins between what can be controlled and the untamed.

One cannot control the black hole into which a young man falls while strolling through a paradise garden in the animated film Aha (dir. Paulina Jaklik), but many disorders that ail the characters in And Don’t Call Me Crazy can be treated. Dorota Skupniewicz’s film is a dissection the psychiatric care system conducted by the protagonist undergoing treatment at a mental health facility. It’s a place where doctors don’t have enough time to get to know and understand their patients; they issue diagnoses that are easy to classify, prescribe pills, and promote “normal” life: work, family, stability.

Medium- and Feature-length Documentaries:

  • Silent Trees, dir. Agnieszka Zwiefka, Poland, Germany, Denmark, 84’, 2024
  • I, Rosiński, dir. Piotr Kielar, Poland, 86’, 2024
  • I Am the Creation of Fiction, dir. Arkadiusz Bartosiak, Poland, 75’, 2024
  • Are You There?, dir. Xavery Deskur, Poland, 47’, 2023
  • Koka, dir. Aliaksandr Tsymbaliuk, Poland, 48’, 2024
  • Lili, dir. Sylwia Rosak, Poland, 73’, 2023
  • Otherland, dir. Piotr Wysocki, Poland, 76’, 2024
  • The Peter Plan, dir. Grzegorz Pacek, Poland, United Kingdom, 72’, 2024
  • Putin’s Playground, dir. Konrad Szołajski, Poland, Czechia, Bulgaria, Norway, Latvia, Germany, 91’, 2024
  • A Year In the Life of the Country, dir. Tomasz Wolski, Poland, 85’, 2024
  • Only Day And Night, dir. Grzegorz Brzozowski, Poland, 69’, 2024
  • Everything Needs to Live, dir. Tetiana Dorodnitsyna, Andrii Lytvynenko, Poland, Ukraine, 70’, 2024

Short Films:

Animated films:

  • Aha, dir. Paulina Jaklik, Poland, 8’, 2024
  • All My Fucking Superheroes, dir. Piotr Kabat, Poland, 12’, 2023
  • Codex, dir. Betina Bożek, Poland, 12’, 2024
  • Nutcracker Girl, dir. Michalina Musialik, Poland, 14’, 2023
  • And Don’t Call Me Crazy, dir. Dorota Skupniewicz, Poland, 13’, 2024
  • There Will Be No Other End, dir. Piotr Milczarek, Poland, 8’, 2024
  • Me, Monster, dir. Zofia Tomalska, Poland, 9’, 2024
  • Joko, dir. Izabela Plucińska, Poland, Czechia, Germany, 15’, 2024
  • Nabu, dir. Joanna Rusinek, Poland, 6’, 2023
  • Potatoes, dir. Marcin Podolec, Poland, 4’, 2023

Documentaries:

  • Needle, dir. Józef Gross, Poland, 30’, 2024
  • Submarine, dir. Oliwia Zakrzewska, Poland, 17’, 2024
  • Dust dir. Paweł Chorzępa, Poland, 28’, 2024
  • Do You Hear Me?, dir. Magdalena Sienicka, Poland, 17’, 2024
  • Crazy Love, dir. Martyna Peszko, Poland, 30’, 2023
  • In My Hands, dir. Igor Kuna, Poland, 7’, 2024
  • Debtors, dir. Andrzej Danis, Poland, 24’, 2023
  • Tiger Soup, dir. Kacper Świtalski, Poland, 36’, 2023

Fiction Films:

  • Comme Des Cowboys, dir. Julia Sadowska, Poland, 25’, 2024
  • The Miracle, dir. Ewa Borysewicz, Poland, 30’, 2024
  • Honey Bunny, dir. Gracjana Piechula, Poland, 24’, 2024
  • Here For You, dir. Cezary Orłowski, Poland, 20’, 2024
  • Ends and Beginnings, dir. Klaudia Fortuniak, Poland, 17’, 2024
  • The Mandala, dir. Mikołaj Janik, Poland, 25’, 2023
  • An Orange from Jaffa, dir. Mohammed Almughanni, Poland, France, 26’, 2023
  • From You, dir. Jędrzej Gorski, Poland, 15’, 2024
  • The Power of Resistance, dir. Elżbieta Benkowska, Poland, 30’, 2024
  • Stimulants & Empathogens, dir. Mateusz Pacewicz, Poland, 25’, 2024

Passes for the 64th Krakow Film Festival are on sale now!

The Krakow Film Festival is on the exclusive list of qualifying events for the Oscars® in the categories of short film (live action, animated, documentary) and documentary feature, as well as a recommending event for the European Film Awards in the same categories.

The Festival is organised with the financial support of the Municipality of Kraków, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the European Union’s Creative Europe program, the Lesser Poland Province, the Polish Film Institute. It is co-organised by the Polish Filmmakers Association.

The 64th Krakow Film Festival will be held in cinemas from 26 May to 2 June and online across Poland on the KFF VOD platform from 31 May to 16 June 2024.

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