Living Organism

16 November 2022

The festival promotes young talent while remembering tradition.

29th Etiuda&Anima International Film Festival

Justyna Skalska

Etiuda&Anima, celebrating its anniversary next year, has gone from a modest event presenting achievements of students at film and art schools to an international festival. But before it turns thirty, this year’s 29th edition has plenty of surprises in store!

Magical memories

As far back as the 1970s, Kraków was regarded as an (international) capital of short film. The competition of etudes by students from film and art schools from all over the globe was finally launched in the early 1990s. “I always fondly recall 1994. The budget was beyond humble, and the event only really happened through sheer willpower,” says the festival’s director Bogusław Zmudziński.

In the years that followed, Kraków saw debuts by directors of features, documentaries and animations who have since risen to international prominence, such as Ülo Pikkov, Julia Loktev and Florian Gallenberger (winner of an Oscar in 2001 for Quiero ser shown at the 7th International Etiuda Film Festival the previous year) and Polish filmmakers including Agnieszka Smoczyńska, Marcin Wrona and Leszek Dawid.

The festival has always hosted big names. Bogusław Zmudziński looks back to meeting Krzysztof Kieślowski: “He accepted my invitation and arrived at the meeting following screenings of his etudes and documentaries. He answered each question with care, and he wasn’t at all patronising. He also said something very honest and surprising: he told me he was planning to quit cinema, because while he respected his audiences, he wanted to engage with them differently, perhaps the way he was with me. The discussion at Kraków’s legendary Rotunda, held at the inaugural festival, turned out to be Kieślowski’s final public appearance in front of Cracovian listeners.”

Acclaimed artists

Etiuda&Anima is a living organism which continues to evolve. Over the last two decades, the festival has welcomed many acclaimed filmmakers and presented numerous works by up-and-coming directors and masters of their craft, frequently difficult to obtain. Let’s recall the Czech Surrealist artist Jan Švankmajer, awarded the Special Prize celebrating Etiuda&Anima’s 25th anniversary in 2018 for “lifetime contribution to the festival’s audiences”. “This year, we will show what is likely to be his last feature-length film Kunstkamera,” promises Zmudziński. Fans of the filmmaker will be interested in a recent publication exploring his work with its cultural and ideological contexts, available on the website of the Etiuda&Anima Foundation for the Promotion of Artistic, Film and Audiovisual Culture.

Cinematic gems

An essential part of the festival is its two international competitions: ETIUDA dedicated to student etudes made at film and audiovisual schools, and ANIMA assessing professional, student and independent short animations, with its Polish section ANIMA.PL.

This year, the ETIUDA competition has received over 1500 submissions. Most originate from Europe, in particular Slovakia, Germany and – of course – Poland. “As usual, we have received entries from all continents except the Antarctic,” says festival selector Marcin Markiewicz. But which are most worth seeing? “Twenty-five are selected for the competition. Given how many other etudes the chosen films had to overcome, I’m sure they are all worthy of our attention,” adds another selector Anna Kubinka.

Although the films were made in different countries and cultures, they explore themes important for us all. “For many years now, student etudes have been dominated by themes such as complex relationships, difficult decisions, loss or change and mental distress. The filmmakers frequently explore parenthood, sensuality, sexuality, exclusion, war, love and the oppressive culture of patriarchy,” adds Konrad Głąbek, another festival selector. We can’t wait!

Best animations

The ANIMA 2022 competition has received entries from masters of their craft (Paul Driessen, Andreas Hykade, Ülo Pikkov) and winners of previous editions of the festival (Špela Čadež, Marta Pajek, Jonathan Schwenk) as well as students. Ryszard Haja, selector of the ANIMA competition, says, “The names of the young filmmakers are yet to be widely known, but the very fact that their films are assessed side by side with productions by acclaimed artists is proof of the high quality of their work.”

Mateusz Solarz, another selector, talks about the latest trends in contemporary animation: “The trends among animation artists have been developing over the last decade or so. Evolving technologies allow filmmakers to create increasingly more interesting and complex films; they also intertwine this very topic into their works to reveal some of the threats state-of-the-art technologies pose to our lives. The filmmakers warn us against becoming too wrapped up in our phones and trusting what we read on social media. They encourage us to think for ourselves, and respond to all socio-political events. The subject of COVID-19 has been present since the very start of the pandemic, and we are seeing a similar response to the war in Ukraine.”

The submitted films are aimed at audiences for all ages. “We often associate animations with children’s films, and we do receive some entries for young viewers. Good animations for children can also have an important message for grown-ups, while those for adults can captivate with their carefree imagination and lack of pretences,” says Anna Askaldowicz, another selector. She adds, “However, the majority of entries aim to analyse serious issues and pose important existential questions. They may concern life, death, physical and mental illness, ageing. They critique politicians and reveal the difficulties faced by minorities and refugees. Some animations for adults simply aim to entertain, showing the flexibility of the medium.”

Special events

As well as regular competitions and sections, this year’s programme also features a special screening of Tomasz Wolski’s documentary 1970 and an accompanying exhibition of models and puppets made for the animated sections of the film. There will also be a meeting with the director himself, the producer Anna Gawlita and Robert Sowa who made the animations, discussing the film.

The programme also explores environmental issues – an increasingly important element of cultural events in the context of the impending climate catastrophe. “In 2021, we joined forces with the Aeris Futuro Foundation to produce a discussion panel on minimising the environmental impact of festivals where we shared our experiences,” says Katarzyna Surmacz, operational director of the festival. “We are continuing the topic this year – we will host a debate with film producers and environmental scientists,” she adds.

The protagonists of this year’s section Self-Portraits of Animation Artists are the Swedish director Niki Lindroth von Bahr and the Japanese animator Atsushi Wada. And if that’s still not enough, the organisers are also hosting screenings of some of the best feature-length animations of the last season. We will see Signe Baumane’s My Love Affair with Marriage, telling the story of a young woman overcoming institutional expectations of the patriarchal society and her romantic idea of love, with Dagmara Dominczyk voicing the main character.


The Etiuda&Anima Festival seeks out the best niche, fascinating young talents and trends with a youthful vigour. Don’t succumb to autumn blues – we are facing a new (cinematic) beginning!

The article was published in the 3/2022 issue of "Kraków Culture" quarterly.


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