Polish film fests raise the bar

Polish film fests are in many ways raising the bar on prizes and glitz in the region as organizations have developed sophisticated marketing and sponsorship relationships.

Krakow’s Off Plus Camera fest, in only its fourth year, drew serious competition for its main prize of $100,000 in April — a trophy complemented by a further $366,000 from the Polish Film Institute toward the winner’s next project if Poland is chosen as the location.

Fest has some deep-pocketed sponsors, including commercial channel TVN and Plus, Poland’s biggest mobile phone network, that enables it to fund high value prizes for directors.

Spokesman Lukas Bulka says the cash prizes are designed to give winners the means to continue using their talents.

This year’s winner, Park Jung-Bum, won over jurors with “The Journals of Musan,” his gritty true-life tale of a North Korean refugee trying to make it in South Korea. He hasn’t yet announced whether he will take up the offer of shooting his next film in Poland. But last year’s winner, Czech helmer Marek Najbrt, who won with the WWII Prague occupation story “Protektor,” is headed to the country for his next shoot.

Industryites at Off Plus Camera say they were impressed with the prize offer but several wondered whether risking that level of backing for a pic that’s likely not even scripted yet is wise.

Organizers see it as a bold move designed to put Krakow back on the production map, and not just as a fest destination — privately owned Alvernia Studios is situated nearby. Amy Heckerling’s New York-set comedy “Vamps” is among the recent productions that have shot there.

The festival has engaged U.S. praisery Rogers & Cowan, and is hoping to raise its profile among Hollywood folk during Cannes.

Another fest burnishing its reputation is Warsaw, which last year earned the FIAPF “A” category, placing it on the same competish level as Berlin, Cannes and Venice.

Warsaw prexy Stefan Laudyn says the 27-year-old event is expanding into more sections and tributes and its new status has helped bring in more film entries than ever.

“Programming is the easy part of the job,” he says. And since Poland was not hit too hard by the recession, Warsaw is not having a hard time securing sponsorships and is in talks with “potential major sponsors,” he says.

Era New Horizons festival, founded by indie distributor and former head of the Warsaw Festival, Roman Gutek in 2001, combines film and art events in Silesian city Wroclaw each summer.

Now Poland’s biggest event in terms of guest and auds, the festival will move in 2013 to a $100 million city concert and events center. Festival runs a rich program of ground-breaking films and retrospectives that this year include focuses on helmers Terry Gilliam and Bruno Dumont.

Gutek is also founder of the American Film Festival, which celebrates the vast range of filmic talent from the U.S. Fest is developing its media outreach as programmer Ula Sniegowska spreads the word among bizzers and shuttles back and forth across the Atlantic, building its program ahead of fest’s November second edition.

The annual Polish National Film festival in Gydnia, the seaside resort close to Poland’s famous Gdansk shipyards, recently moved from September to early June, giving trans-Atlantic visitors to Cannes who want to linger in Europe a chance to see the best of Poland’s annual output of films.

Event is a singular opportunity to meet all the key players from the Polish biz in one place.

Plus Camerimage — one of the world’s few specialized festivals devoted to the work of cinematographers — is a more intimate, industry-led event now in Bydgoszcz after many years in Torun and Lodz marks its 19th edition in late November.

Warsaw’s Laudyn has also met recently with fest heads from Camerimage, Era New Horizons and the documentary Krakow Intl. Film Fest to talk common strategy — a first in Poland.

SPOTLIGHT: POLISH CINEMA
Poles covet global auds | Sponsors, new tools raise fests’ profiles | Up next in Polish cinema

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