Warsaw fest serves the city

Fall Fest Preview 2011: Warsaw

Despite challenges from a number of upstart Polish fests (Wroclaw’s ERA New Horizons, Camerimage), Warsaw retains by far the greatest name recognition among the international industry. Based in the heart of the capital, it’s an old-fashioned best-of-the-fests event — yet one with an acute sense of what it can offer a loyal hometown audience, as well as the national and regional production sectors.

For its 27th edition, WFF boats no fewer than five competitive sections: in addition to its main prize, there’s “Competition 1-2” for debut and sophomore features and the “Free Spirit Competition” (rewarding “independent, innovative, rebellious films”), as well as doc and shorts prizes.

Fest topper Stefan Laudyn sent letters to Tehran Ministry of Culture and the Iranian Embassy in Warsaw, inviting banned Iranian director Jafar Panahi to chair the international competition jury; his latest, “This Is Not a Film,” will also screen as a special event. If Panahi is able to attend — unlikely, given his inability to accept similar invites from Cannes and Berlin — he’ll oversee fellow jurors from Switzerland (veteran sales agent Christa Saredi) and Russia (producer Artem Vassiliev), as well as three past WFF award winners: Alvaro Brechner, Milcho Manchevski and Bogdan George Apetri.

Among the 20 or so features they’ll sit through — almost all European or international premieres — one to watch is a local entry, “Courage” (Wymyk), by Lodz graduate Greg Zglinski, which will screen concurrently at Busan. In addition, this year’s edition will unveil a number of anticipated Polish works-in-progress, such as “Baby Blues” by Kasia Roslaniec and “Nowhere” from Malgoska Szumowska.

Other WFF highlights include the Killer/Hope Celebration, an event dedicated to the careers of two leading independent Gotham producers: Killer Films’ Christine Vachon and Ted Hope (Good Machine, This is that, Double Hope). WFF’s program will include a selection of their works, and both Hope and Vachon will be in town for a producers master class.

Industry pros will gather for the CentEast Market Warsaw (Oct. 14-16), an industry event matchmaking producers, sales agents and distribs. Meanwhile, young film journalists and critics from Eastern Europe will attend a 10-day workshop organized in conjunction with FIPRESCI.

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