The 30th edition of Warsaw Film Festival (WFF) took place between 10 and 19 October 2014 and demonstrated once again festival co-founder and director Stefan Laudyn and his team's knack at organising an event with equal appeal to international visitors, the local public and industry delegates alike. Attendees gather in nine screens across two venues, both of which are in visible proximity to the festival headquarters in the centre of the Polish capital. WFF once again played host to CentEast Market Warsaw, a production market for international sales agents, distributors, programmers and producers with an interest in Eastern European cinema — which this year celebrated its 10th edition.
Some 59 countries were represented in total across the festival’s usual range of juried competitions and non-competitive sections, and there were 21 world-premieres in total. WFF prides itself on melding established names with first-time directors: the opening gala this year was David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, while the festival as a whole takes pains to showcase work by lesser known filmmakers — not least of all through its 1-2 Competition (see below), and by asking its FIPRESCI jury to oversee a selection of first-time features from Eastern Europe.
Of the 15 films comprising the festival's International Competition, Xin Yukun's Coffin in the Mountain (Binguan) received the Warsaw Grand Prix, while Croatian filmmaker Ognjen Svilicic received Best Director for These Are the Rules (Takva su pravila). The ensemble cast of Paco Léon's Carmina & Amen (Carmina y Amen) were handed a Special Jury Award.
There were also 15 films in the 1-2 Competition, which each year promotes first and second features. In this section, the jury's prize was split equally between How to Stop a Wedding (Hur man stoppar ett bröllop), by Drazen Kuljanin, and The Lesson (Urok), by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov. In the Free Spirit section — which brings together independent features of a rebellious and/or innovative nature — Kazakhstan's Adilkhan Yerzhanov's The Owners (Ukkylikamshat) beat its 14 competitors, with Shawn Christensen's Before I Disappear receiving a Special Mention.
In the Documentary Competition, the spoils went to Alexander Nanau of Romania, for Toto and His Sisters (Toto si surorile), with a Special Mention reserved for Crossroads by first-time feature-length filmmaker Anastasiya Miroshnichenko, about a homeless artist who divides his time between Belarus and St. Petersburg.
The latter film was the sole documentary in a selection of 11 feature-length films under consideration by the FIPRESCI jury, who were tasked with awarding the best debut from Eastern Europe. Assessing films from a range of sections, the jury finally agreed on What a Wonderful World (Ce lume minunata), Anatol Durbala's pained study of the underreported-on events that rocked Chisinau and other Moldovan cities in April 2009, following widespread allegations of a rigged election. Seen through the eyes of a young native returning for a short visit after two years of study in the US, the film is an effective accumulation of quiet dread, as it builds to an unforgettably foregone denouement. (Michael Pattison)
Warsaw Film Festival: www.wff.pl/en