A Focus on Diversity

25 April 2022

We talk to Szymon Miszczak, director of the Mastercard Off Camera festival, about this year’s anniversary, the local and international aspects of the event and the most important elements of the programme.

Marcin Radomski: Mastercard Off Camera is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. What would you say have been the key points of past editions?

Szymon Miszczak: The most important thing is that our concept has taken roots and our sponsors, partners, the city and the audience are still as enthusiastic about it. It’s a source of great pride for me and the entire team working on the festival. Although the years seem to have passed in the blink of an eye, we have been able to present myriad fascinating initiatives, welcome may acclaimed filmmakers from all over the globe and promote fresh talent.

Which guests, sections or events from the festival’s history are you most proud of?

I’ll never forget Tim Roth’s incredible infectious energy. I was also struck by the New Zealand director Jane Campion and her unassuming, modest manner. I should also mention Luc Besson and his impressive drive – he spent all his free time in his hotel room working on his next project. And of course there’s Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Weir, Roman Polański, Amitabh Bachchan… I could keep going!

You have carved out a major international standing for the festival over the years. How did you achieve this?

Mastercard Off Camera has had ambitions to become an important spot on festival maps since its earliest days. Our programmers regularly attend the most important events in the industry – Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Rotterdam – where they learn from the organisers, meet new contacts and get to know artists. We strive to learn from the very best. I think our guests also play a very important role. It’s a bit like whisper marketing: when someone comes away from the Kraków festival happy and with good memories, they are likely to recommend us to others. I’m delighted that this has happened several times. And for young filmmakers from all over the globe, Mastercard Off Camera is attractive with its main competition. It’s not just about exposure to major new audiences: there is also a significant cash prize providing real help in the next stage of their careers.  

Let’s move on to this year’s edition – can you reveal some of the most important elements of the programme?

We’re focusing on diversity, hence so many festival sections. We want to find something for everyone. We are showing major titles straight from the most important film festivals. For me as the director of Mastercard Off Camera, the main competition will always be key, showcasing debuts or second films by up-and-coming filmmakers from all over the globe and assessed by a professional jury and the festival audience. Each of the ten titles will be shown in Poland for the first time. I think this perspective of always finding something new is really exciting, both from the organiser’s and audience perspectives.

What new sections can we expect this year?

We’ve prepared four new thematic sections. Each explores a topic we think is interesting, especially in the present context. “The Future is Today” focuses on the ongoing environmental crisis and asks what we can do to halt it. “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind?” explores mental health and various disorders and problems many people struggle with. The idea arose since we happen to exist in a reality we can barely keep up with, made all the worse by the recent experiences of the pandemic and lockdowns which have all had a major impact on our mental as well as physical health. “Unexpected Covenant” is our take on breaking social divisions and cultural differences, while “The Age of Innocence”, prepared with Anja Rubik’s social campaign SEXED.PL, explores today’s coming-of-age cinema.

You are also planning events and film screenings linked with the director Jerzy Skolimowski.

Jerzy Skolimowski is undoubtedly one of the foremost directors in the history of Polish cinema. What’s more, he’s made a name for himself beyond our borders. Skolimowski previously visited the festival in 2011 when he was the president of the jury of the main competition. He is an acclaimed director and an excellent actor, with past collaborations including David Cronenberg, Tim Burton and Taylor Hackford. As well as showing both aspects of his career, the festival will also present a special exhibition of his paintings.  

As usual, the festival programme also features the PRO INDUSTRY fair, the SerialCon section and the Off Stage music programme.

Marcin Radomski
Journalist and film critic writing for publications such as “Newsweek”, Onet.pl, “Rzeczpospolita” and Magazyn Filmowy”. Holder of a PhD, he lectures at the Warsaw Film School and the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw. He runs the “KINOrozmowa” YouTube channel where he hosts discussions with actors, directors and cinema scholars.

Szymon Miszczak
Director of the Mastercard Off Camera Independent Film Festival in Kraków.

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