No Red Carpet

11 May 2020

No Red Carpet

As festivals and mass events were being cancelled en masse, they led the way by moving entirely online. Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Kraków Film Festival  (31 May – 7 June) is showing no signs of slowing down! We talk to  Barbara Orlicz-Szczypuła, Katarzyna Wilk and Olga Lany about the challenges faced by the organisers of this year’s events.

The 60th anniversary Kraków Film Festival is moving into the virtual world. Was it a difficult decision? What inspired you to take it?

Barbara Orlicz-Szczypuła: Yes, the decision to move the festival online was difficult. We didn’t want to cancel or postpone it, so following numerous consultations with our partners, programmers and IT support, we decided to hold it online. We also kept an eye on the efforts of our Danish friends from CPH: DOX [Copenhagen International Documentary Festival – ed.], who had just three weeks to prepare an online edition.

Olga Lany: Even before the government tightened restrictions on public gatherings, we started looking for alternative solutions. We have obligations to filmmakers who have placed their trust in us by submitting their latest productions to the festival, as well as to our audiences. We were also working hard on anniversary events. The idea of moving the event online seemed quite natural.

Kasia Wilk: Of all the options we considered, holding the KFF online seemed the most sensible in organisational terms. We saw it as a brand-new, exciting challenge. Maybe the direction we’re heading in means that in a few years’ time we will be only accessing culture in its virtual forms… The industry has been talking about moving online for a long time, so we were tempted to test the formula. The pandemic simply brought the decision forward, and to an extent forced us to gain new skills and knowledge at short notice.

Olga Lany: We already know we’ve hit bullseye!

Was it difficult to bring the film industry around to your idea? What reactions did you encounter?

BOS: Discussions were difficult to start with, especially when they involved major distributors or sales agents. The decision wasn’t easy for them, either, since their duty is to give their films the best possible coverage. However, the pandemic turned the entire industry upside-down, so in the end we were able to convince almost all producers who previously accepted our invitation to the real-life edition to switch online.

KW: I think the industry has already become accustomed to conducting activities such as meetings, consultations and presentations online – they are rapidly becoming an essential, sometimes even the only way of keeping in touch with colleagues all over the globe. I think this is why we were met with full understanding.

OL: It’s really encouraging, because we are mainly hearing voices of approval and admiration from filmmakers, audiences and opinion-makers. We feel supported from almost all sides.

Will the traditional KFF programme remain unchanged? Will there still be four competitions and special sections?

OL: The structure of the festival is the same as always: four competitions including three international ones and one for Polish films, and special cycles including Tales from the World. The World of Women, Somewhere in Europe. Boys Do Cry, Docs+Science and The Panorama of Polish Film. We will see over 200 films!

What will all this look like in practice?

BOS: Since we’re trying to maintain an illusion of being at the cinema, our screenings won’t follow the VOD formula. We want to grab the viewers’ attention and encourage them to watch films they’re interested in, so screenings will be held at specified times set out in the programme. Each screening will be accessible with a ticket, and we are also issuing passes for the whole festival.

OL: The programme will be structured just as it would be at a real-life festival. Each film will be available to view twice at specified times. After each screening, viewers can take part in virtual meetings with filmmakers and actors. There will also be special events for the public and representatives of the film industry. Each film can be seen with a ticket (6 zlotys), or with a pass (60 zlotys for the entire festival!). Events transmitted on our social media will be open to the public.

What other surprises have you got in store?

BOS: I’ll only mention meetings with filmmakers – online, of course! – presentations by special guests, a gala award ceremony, workshops for kids…

OL: …but if we tell you any more, they won’t be surprises! J

Now, how about some cinematic and totally subjective recommendations? What are your must-sees of this year’s event?

BOS: Personally, I can recommend the international documentary competition. Acasa – My Home about a Romani family living in a nature reserve on the outskirts of Bucharest, forced to move to the city, is simply unmissable – as is The Self Portrait, a moving portrayal of a photographer whose life-long struggle with anorexia drives her artistic passion.

I’d also like to mention the Docs+Science cycle, this year dedicated to the “no-man’s land” between knowledge and ignorance, science and art, fear and hope. This year’s selection of films touch on issues which are especially prudent at the current time.

OL: In the cycle A Focus on Denmark, I can especially recommend Q’s Barbershop – a light-hearted, fascinating insight into black masculinity. This year’s cycle Tales from the World is entirely dedicated to women, and I was captivated by Lili – a shocking story about motherhood and about how trauma can affect three generations of the same family. The international documentary competition is filled with fascinating films. I can recommend the Romanian Acasa – My Home about family ties and the relationship between humans and nature, Jerzy Śladkowski’s Bitter Love whose protagonists take a cruise in search of love, and the Iranian documentary Sunless Shadows, set in a juvenile detention centre where a group of adolescent girls serve their sentence for murdering their fathers, their husbands or other male family members.

Are you planning on holding anniversary celebrations online?

BOS: Of course! We’ll be reminding everyone about the anniversary, although it probably won’t have as great an impact as it would have at a gala opening at Kino Kijów. We will recall past festivals, remember our friends and talk about our favourite films. Maybe we’ll even raise a virtual toast J

OL: And we will hold a real party in Kraków in happier times!

Interview by Justyna Skalska

Barbara Orlicz-Szczypuła – KFF Programme Director
Katarzyna Wilk – KFF Industry Director
Olga Lany – KFF Spokesperson



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