Moving pictures at Krakow film festival

The 47th Krakow Film Festival is closed. The verdict is in. ?The Grand Prix — The Gold Horn? went  to Jeroen Berkvens of The Netherlands for his film, ?Jimmy Rosenberg — The Father, the Son and the Talent.?

This year?s festival of new feature-length documentaries was a success. Ten films contended for the Gold Horn Award, and the festival included three world premieres, such as Marcin Koszalka?s, ?The Existence.? The film was the most spectacular event of the festival and broke the festival record for number of viewers attending at Kijow Cinema on Sunday.
?The Existence? is a moving portrait of the famous Polish actor, 80-year-old Jerzy Nowak, who battled serious illness for years and decided to donate his body after his death to the medical academy for scientific purposes. His way of taming death and his dignified preparation for its arrival is shown through a range of beautiful images. Koszalka was also the camera operator for the film.
The film?s second hero, Professor Konstanty Slusarczyk, from the Silesia Medical Academy, is physically handicapped and asks a philosophical and ethical question about the body after one?s death — is it just an anatomical specimen or an element of humanity that continues to exist?
Koszalka?s project raised controversy from day one.
?I was going to finish this film with Mr. Jerzy?s death and that was what outraged public opinion,? said the director. ?But we became friends and then it was impossible for me to accept this ending. I think that this waiting for death — teamed with what happens to a body after death — is even more important than the film itself.?
This risky, more experimental than artistic, idea was accepted by the main hero Jerzy Nowak. Why?
?For fame!? as Nowak said in the film. ?It is beautiful that at the end of my life I can make a film where I play the main part.?
As the director said, the problem was that Nowak is an actor, and he has never ?played? in a documentary film. He wanted a scenario that Koszalka couldn?t give him. This impossibility of breaking the actor?s mask was the key to this moving film.    
Meeting with the heroes and authors was even more touching than the film itself. For a long time no one knew if Nowak would come to the screening at all. Each day brought another version, sometimes saying that he would come but would leave after the screening. Finally, the film?s heroes, including Professor Slusarczyk, the actors and authors, appeared on-stage. Nowak didn?t say much. He also resigned from answering the audience?s questions, but mostly it was his and Professor Slusarczyk?s presence that was important.
Koszalka spoke of how the concept of the film would change and problems he had with this project.
?A very important part of this film takes place in a dissection room and the lessons in anatomy that are going on there. All medical academies in Poland, except for this one in Zabrze (a city in Silesia), didn?t agree to take part in the project,? Professor Slusarczyk said. ?I am intent on discussing these problems, because donating a body for scientific purposes is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of thinking about man?s existence.? 
An important point of the festival was the discussion that took place with the directors.
Festival participants will certainly remember the touching meeting with Director Jacek Blawut, and star Marek Piotrowski, whose sports career was as spectacular as his downfall.
His strength of character was shown in Blawut?s film ?The Warrior,? another world premiere shown at the competition of feature-length films.
The U.S. kickboxing champion won audience?s hearts with his modesty and was applauded spontaneously. The director mentioned how difficult it was to persuade Piotrowski to agree to do the project because of his dislike for the media.
?But when I met Marek 5 years ago, I knew that this was destiny and I had to do this film,? said Blawut.
Raoul Servais, the renowned Belgian animated films director and laureate of this year?s Dragon of Dragons Prize, surprised everyone with his openness and sense of humor.
At a press conference during the festival, Servais revealed that he had once been a member of the Krakow Film Festival jury.
?It was long ago, but I always come back to Krakow with great pleasure,? he said. ?It is a wonderful city which I truly love.?
He confessed that the animated story for children about ?Felix the Cat,? which he watched with his father as a 5-year-old boy, influenced him to become a director of animated films.
But as a child, he thought that what moved the pictures was magic, so first he wanted to become a magician.
When beginning his education after the World War II, there was no animated film department in Europe (the first school was founded by Servais himself). Instead he studied in the Academy of Art and learned to animate himself.
?One of my professors, a do-it-yourself man, made me my first camera? made of a cigar box!? he said.
Servais is known for a method he invented called ?servaisgraphy,? which connects a live actor to animation without the use of a computer. He first used this method in the animated film, ?The Harpy,? which won a Gold Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979.
?I wanted to patent it but unfortunately the computer appeared,? he laughed.     
It is difficult to single out a particular feature of this year?s competition.
Maybe, as chairman of the jury, Andrzej Zulawski, noted, ?a lot of short films should be shorter.?
In fact, some of the films may have been interesting, but were too long (at a festival of short films, they can be a maximum of one hour).
Surprisingly, there was gloomy atmosphere in nearly all of the short animated films. They were often beautifully painted, but their stories were brutal. This is perhaps why Gitanjali Ra?s charming animated short stood out so well. Her ?Printed Rainbow? would be a particular favorite of Bollywood fans. It is as colorful as popular fiction films from India.
Among the most impressive Polish films at the international competition were Wojciech Kasperski?s ?The Refuge City.? Even though the story of an ardent soccer fan killing a man sometimes seemed at times trivial, the way in which the story was told was delightful.
The wonderful animated film of Andrzej Baranski, ?The Grocery,? an adaptation of the novel by Edward Dwurnik, was also shown at the festival. Malgorzata Szumowska?s ?Nothing To Be Scared Of? tells the tale of a small village and the rituals and beliefs connected with death on the backdrop of pop-culture.

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