The International Short Film Competition of the 63rd Krakow Film Festival

Cosmic Journeys Across A Wounded Earth
This won’t be a journey on a high-speed train, nor even a flight on the Concorde; this time, we need a real rocketship to see the best premiere documentaries, fiction, and animated films from around the world in an ultra-short time. This year thirty-seven films have been invited to the international short film competition, including a total of five Polish titles. This many productions will compete for the 2023 Golden Dragon, a recommendation for the European Film Award, and a shorter path to Oscar nominations.

Documentary films

It doesn’t matter if they are flying into space, sailing shackled under the deck of a ship, or happen to be riding a suburban bus – we have accepted the invitation to a share a journey with the heroines and heroes of these films. They show us their colourful, multidimensional, and complicated world – our world, which they make somewhat easier to understand, – says Maciej Gil, film scholar and KFF selector.

The proposed rocket will indeed come in handy. Not only to freely explore the program of this year’s competition but also to literally take one of the protagonists into space (The Syrian Cosmonaut, dir. Charles Emir Richards). After landing, Muhammad Faris has encountered the prose of life in an authoritarian country. The heroines of the animated documentary Inside Kabul (dir. Caroline Gillet, Denis Walgenwitz) face similar problems. Daughter (dir. Yaser Talebi) also takes us to the Middle East. Fortunately, the heroine doesn’t have to fight authority. However, she still has to face a difficult confrontation with her family. 

We also go on a journey with the protagonists of the Spanish Bus (dir. Sandra Reina) and embark on a less literal, more nostalgic trip thanks to Line Rider (dir. Simon Intihar). The creator of the titular game, which was a real phenomenon a few years ago, opens the door to his somewhat eccentric world for the director. Similarly, the Mommies (dir. Elvira Krithari, Maria Sidiropoulou) share their in vitro experience. One as a donor, the other as a recipient and a happy mother. The protagonist of My Blonde GF (dir. Rosie Morris) is no stranger to the experience of motherhood, but this shocking documentary is not about that. Its heroine fell victim to a cybercrime. 

A guided tour is also part of the program. We invite you to the Worldheritage – the Palace and its Fortress (dir. Moritz Siebert) in Ghana and Germany, and then to Chornobyl 22 (dir. Oleksiy Radynski), which was invaded by Russian troops last year. Memories and fears associated with the disaster have returned. 

There was also a journey deep inside oneself and along the body. Director and heroine of Square the Circle, Hanna Hovitie, embarks on such a journey. With the help of a “circle”, she decides to face the passage of time – among other things. This problem seems not to bother Krystyna from Maria Wider’s documentary (Old Summer). The 72-year-old wants to find love. Michal from the documentary Before Bedtime (dir. Fábio Zilberman Iuchno) found hers years ago. Today, the woman lies bedridden, and her journeys are limited to the hospital and short outings with her 7-year-old son. Flamenco dancers from In My Skin (dir. Sándor M Salas) struggle with various illnesses and disabilities, but immersed in music and devoted to their passion, they momentarily forget their daily ailments and limitations.

Animated films

This year belongs to socially-engaged animations. The competition has been dominated by films commenting on the political situation in the world in places of intense conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine, as well as by films addressing social issues such as domestic violence, gender inequality, and the difficult refugee problem. Themes typical for documentaries or animated documentaries, presented in an extraordinary form of artistic film or animated musical film, with poetic narration, often expressed in a simple graphic form, are all very personal statements and cause strong emotions, – summarizes Wiola Sowa, animator, animation curator.

The engagement is visible on many levels: environmental (The Biological Invasions. The Case of Ovis Orientalis Musimon on the Island of Tenerife: « The Last Mouflon», dir. Shira Ukrainitz, Omar Al Abdul Razzak), political (There Are People in the Forest, dir. Szymon Ruczyński or Mariupol. A Hundred Nights, dir. Sofia Melnyk), economic (Money and Happiness, dir. Ana Nedeljković, Nikola Majdak) or socio-cultural (Son!, dir. Nina Đukanović, Goran Ivanović, and Outside, dir. Izabela Plucińska). 

However, how can one be socially conscious when there is a dentist appointment ahead (Think Something Nice, dir. Claudius Gentinetta), everything hurts (Our Pain, dir. Shunsaku Hayashi), one is going through the difficult grieving process like the heroine of the animated film Eeva (dir. Lucija Mrzljak, Morten Tšinakov) or struggling with a maternity crisis, because the newborn keeps traveling the world at night (World to Roam, dir. Stephen Irwin). It is also harder in the winter, especially in smaller towns and remote villages. This is the setting of the Polish animated film – made by a Silver Hobby-Horse winner who returning with a new, disturbing, and dark winter story, aptly named… Zima in Polish [Winter] (dir. Tomasz Popakul, Kasumi Ozeki).

Fiction films

We are sitting on a powder keg, and the creators of short fiction films are finding original ways to talk about it, – comments Dagmara Romanowska, film critic and curator of fiction films at the Krakow Film Festival. A journey through these stories will take viewers in many different directions, because there is not just A SINGLE topic, challenge, or dream in cinema or in life – she adds. 

This year’s set of short fiction films touches on very topical issues, often drawing from interesting genre cinema solutions. The ailments of the modern world are primarily the climate catastrophe, which we will see in the dystopian Mudhole (dir. Job Antoni) and taking place somewhere in a small Himalayan village Last Days of Summer (dir. Stenzin Tankong). Catastrophe and darkness also accompany the Noisetrain (dir. Pol De Plecker) and an oneiric, unusual Greek story about centaurs (Hotel Centaur, dir. Lino Kafidas, Dimitrios Kafidas). 

War is another extremely important and powerful theme. The one that takes place beyond our eastern border (Shreds, dir. Igor Gavva) and the one happening much further away (250 km, dir. Hasmik Movsisyan). You can stay or you can run.The issue of refuge has been addressed in an unconventional way in the extraordinary Mångata (dir. Maja Costa). It tells the story of a small refugee girl who manages to be saved from a sinking boat. Years later, Alya becomes an astronaut. 

The life story of the protagonist of Maja Costa’s film fills you with optimism. Similarly, My Old Gals (dir. Natasza Parzymies) is about mature women who, in their senior years, allow themselves a chance for love. This, in turn, fades in another lesbian couple, the heroines of the Chinese Like Wave Like Cloud (dir. Yulin Yang). A Polish couple also has their own problems in Be Somebody (dir. Michał Toczek). Wiktor and his wife buy an apartment where Lech Wałęsa once lived. Foreign tourists regularly visit the place, which is an excellent way to make easy money and pay off the mortgage faster. The protagonist of the film Underdog (dir. David Arslanian), who earns his living as a courier, does not have such an opportunity. The Cambodian immigrant from Happy Ending (dir. Élodie Yung) also doesn’t fulfill her professional aspirations. The woman works as a masseuse and constantly struggles with harassment and nagging from clients. Exhausted, she decides to resort to the ultimate tool – revenge.

Against these moving, courageous stories, Clinging (dir. Liat Glick) seems modest. Don’t be fooled, it’s a revolutionary story about two women. An aging mother and her 40-year-old daughter, who is not married and has no children, all set in Israel!

List of documentary films qualified for the short film competition:

  • Bus, dir. Sandra Reina, Spain, 30’, 2022
  • Daughter, dir. Yaser Talebi, Iran, 25’, 2022
  • Chornobyl 22, dir. Oleksiy Radynski, Ukraine, 20’, 2023
  • Square the Circle, dir. Hanna Hovitie, Finland, 17’, 2023
  • Line Rider, dir. Simon Intihar, Slovenia, Australia, 24’, 2023
  • Mommies, dir. Elvira Krithari, Maria Sidiropoulou, Greece, 26’, 2022
  • My Blonde GF, dir. Rosie Morris, Great Britain, 19’, 2023
  • Worldheritage – the Palace and its Fortress, dir. Moritz Siebert, Germany, Ghana, 18’, 2023
  • Before Bedtime, dir. Fábio Zilberman Iuchno, Israel, 27’, 2022
  • Old Summer, dir. Maria Wider, Poland, 24’, 2023
  • The Syrian Cosmonaut, dir. Charles Emir Richards, Turkey, 13’, 2022
  • Inside Kabul, dir. Caroline Gillet, Denis Walgenwitz, France, Denmark, 29’, 2023
  • In my Skin, dir. Sándor M Salas, Spain, 14’, 2023

List of films qualified for the short film competition:

  • The Biological Invasions. The Case of Ovis Orientalis Musimon on the Island of Tenerife: « The Last Mouflon», dir. Shira Ukrainitz, Omar Al Abdul Razzak, Spain, 10’, 2023
  • Eeva, dir. Lucija Mrzljak, Morten Tšinakov, Estonia, Croatia, 16’, 2022
  • Mariupol. A Hundred Nights, dir. Sofiia Melnyk, Ukraine, Germany, 7’, 2023
  • Our Pain, dir. Shunsaku Hayashi, Japan, 16’, 2023
  • Outside, dir. Izabela Plucińska, Germany, 5’, 2023
  • Money and Happiness, dir. Ana Nedeljković, Nikola Majdak, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, 10’, 2022
  • Think Something Nice, dir. Claudius Gentinetta, 6’, Switzerland, 2022
  • World to Roam, dir. Stephen Irwin, Great Britain, 12’, 2023
  • Son!, dir. Nina Đukanović, Goran Ivanović, Montenegro, 7’, 2023
  • There Are People in the Forest, dir. Szymon Ruczyński, Poland, 10’, 2023
  • Zima, dir. Tomek Popakul, Kasumi Ozeki, Poland, 26’, 2023

List of ficiton films qualified for the short film competition:

  • 250 km, dir. Hasmik Movsisyan, Armenia, 23’, 2022
  • Mudhole, dir. Job Antoni, Germany, 26’,  2022
  • Be Somebody, dir. Michał Toczek, Polands, 26’, 2023
  • Mångata, dir. Maja Costa, Germany, Italy, 15’, 2022
  • Hotel Centaur, dir. Lino Kafidas, Dimitrios Kafidas, Greece, Belgium, 24’, 2022
  • Like Wave Like Cloud, dir. Yulin Yang, China, 17’, 2023
  • My Old Gals, dir. Natasza Parzymies, Poland, 25’, 2023
  • Last Days of Summer, dir. Stenzin Tankong, France, India, 15’, 2023
  • Noisetrain, dir. Pol De Plecker, Belgium, Iceland, 21’, 2022
  • Clinging, dir. Liat Glick, Israel, 19’, 2022
  • Shreds, dir. Igor Gavva, Ukraine, 15’, 2022
  • Happy Ending, dir. Élodie Yung, USA, Cambodia, 17’, 2022
  • Underdog, dir. David Arslanian, France, 21’, 2022

The detailed program of the Festival will be announced mid-May on www.krakowfilmfestival.pl.

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 Krakow Film Festival is organised with the financial support of the European Union as part of the “Creative Europe” program, the City of Kraków, the Polish Film Institute, and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, and the Lesser Poland Province. The co-organiser is the Polish Filmmakers Association, and the main organiser is the Krakow Film Foundation

The 63rd Krakow Film Festival will be held in Kraków’s cinemas from 28 May to 4 June and across Poland at the KFF VOD online streaming platform between 2 and 18 June.