The refreshingly unassuming, low-key and warm-spirited Warsaw International Film Festival took place for the 27th year from October 7 to 16, again under the sure hand of director Stefan Laudyn. The FIPRESCI competition focused on debut features from Eastern Europe. Screenings alternated between the Kinoteka, located in a multi-storeyed shopping complex, and the Multikino Zlote Tarasy, within the hulking Stalinist-era Palace of Culture and Science — a particularly fitting pair of venues for a programme including films such as Russia's challenging, divisive Twilight Portrait (from director Angelina Nikonova) and Land Of Oblivion (Michale Boganim's Chernobyl drama) which struggle to reconcile the legacy of the Soviet era after the shaky transition to capitalism.
Other films, such as Polish director Greg Zglinski's moral fable of redemption Courage (a strong reflection of his nation's Catholic roots), Anca Damian's animated documentary Crulic — The Path to Beyond (charting the case of a wrongly imprisoned Romanian migrant on hunger strike), and Czech director Tomas Lunak's beautifully rendered graphic-novel adaptation Alois Nebel (in which a border-town train dispatcher has hallucinations about a dark World War II past) added further dimension to an intriguing, multi-faceted programme and its reflection of the region. Not all the films were weighed down with heavy social issues and a sense of historical responsibility. Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov's tender, effortless Ave, focused on a tentative road-trip romance between two teens, could arguably have taken place anywhere — but was certainly no worse for it, as it teased new depth and nuance from a familiar form.
Warsaw International Film Festival: www.wff.pl