Warsaw Film Festival Spotlights Young Protagonists and Timely Topics

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Ahead of its 39th edition, Poland’s Warsaw Film Festival is betting on timely topics.

“The role of filmmakers, and artists in general, is to react,” says festival director Stefan Laudyn.

“For years, we have been showing films that criticize the situation in various countries, not just in Poland. We try to avoid puff pieces.”

While there is space for “lighter topics” as well, supporting Ukraine – and Ukrainian filmmakers – remains one of the priorities.

“We initiated the first solidarity action with Ukraine back in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea, we also supported Oleg Sentsov. Last year, we featured the entire Ukrainian competition from Odesa International Film Festival, which couldn’t take place due to the war.”

This year, eight Ukrainian productions and co-productions will be shown at the fest. Including “Diagnosis: Dissent” by Denys Tarasov, about punitive psychiatry used by the KGB, and Taras Dron’s “The Glass House,” where a businesswoman has to search for her missing daughter.

“The war is still ongoing and it’s an open wound. But we need to talk about people and human stories,” says Dron. Underlining the importance of international coproductions – with Cyprus, Romania and Germany also on board – and international exposure.

“Through festivals, we can talk about ourselves. Warsaw Film Festival has always supported Ukrainian cinema and this year is no exception, for which we are very grateful.”

“I Don’t Love You Anymore”
Courtesy of Iopost

Still, films featuring younger protagonists, or even children, are demanding as well.

“They have to live in a time of great changes, during the clash of great powers, sometimes even war. Their parents are apparently surprised by that and the youngsters have to find their own way,” Laudyn says.

In Zdeněk Jiráský’s “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” two teens board a train to escape their unhappy home.

“I was inspired to write a story about adolescence. It’s a tumultuous yet beautiful time that shapes us all so dramatically. I made this movie to revisit those moments, to honor that time and finally make peace with it,” he says.

In Yana Titova’s “Dyad,” an angry teen Dida opts for a plane instead, hoping to join her estranged mother in the U.S. In “Neandria” by Reha Erdem, only the new generation notices first cracks in the existing order.

Spain’s “Werewolf” by Pau Calpe Rufat goes one step darker, focusing on Adrià: a mute boy who can’t stand enclosed spaces, but is also harboring a bloody secret.

“The film is about how we stigmatize those who are different. The marginalized, the miserable,” says the director.

“In our team, besides the veterans, we have a large group of 20 year olds, which naturally has a significant impact on the selection,” Laudyn says. This year, the fest has received 4,800 entries from 111 countries.

But there is still hope for intergenerational dialogue in Hanna Slak’s “Not a Word,” fresh from Toronto and sold by Beta. Maren Eggert, known for “I’m Your Man,” stars.

“I was interested in exploring the complex dynamics between a parent and a child, which are especially intense during adolescence. In order for this bond to survive, it needs to transform into something new. Which is painful,” Slak tells Variety.

“We must accept and adjust to whoever our parents are, but we are faced with a growing urge to become individuals in our own right. We are forever torn between our need for love and our struggle for sovereignty. Only after becoming parents ourselves, are we able to revisit this relationship and catch a glimpse of our parents in a completely new light.”

World premieres include “The Shadow of Catire” by Jorge Hernandez, “Take My Breath” by Nada Mezni Hafaiedh, “Bufis-Daydreamer,” directed by Mahad Ahmed and Vincenzo Cavallo, and “Velo Gang” by Alex Kälin.

“Not a Word”
Courtesy of Beta Cinema

Another world premiere is Asia Dér’s intimate doc “I Won’t Die,” where a man is learning to come to terms with his illness. The film counts “Six Weeks” helmer Noémi Veronika Szakonyi among its producers.

“In Hungary, we are the leading country in Europe in terms of cancer mortality, yet this disease is a complete taboo. My grandmother died of cancer, then my dad got cancer too. We realized that although we tend to keep quiet about these things, now is the time to talk,” she says.

“I thought it would be important to make a film with someone who wants to show what it’s like to face a terminal illness. I have always been interested in the masks we tend to wear. I also wanted to see if it’s possible to show what’s behind them.”

Warsaw Film Festival runs Oct. 6-15.

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