Now in its second year back in the city where it was born, the EnergaCamerimage International Film Festival has partnered with the Torun council in Poland and the national government in funding its most ambitious project, the European Film Center Camerimage, a $155 million facility now entering the architecture bidding stage. Torun mayor Michał Zaleski (pictured above right, with “Joker” cinematographer Lawrence Sher) has been a strong advocate for returning the renowned cinematography fest to the city and advocating for funding its future home as a strategic regional investment.

Why is EnergaCamerimage important to Torun at this particular moment and what does the city gain from hosting the festival?

The EnergaCamerimage Film Festival was founded in Torun in 1993 and it showed its potential in the very first editions. Its unique formula of putting the spotlight on the art of cinematography got it noticed worldwide very fast, while the festival’s artistic quality became a clear signal for the film community that this was an event worth investing time in. This made Torun a city recognized throughout the world and its name appeared in the international media. The promotional value of the event was always something that could not be overestimated.

So the return of Camerimage to Torun is putting the city on the global map again?

I was very enthusiastic towards the idea of welcoming the festival, which became a truly international celebration of cinematographers and their work, back to the city where it was born. In 2020, COVID-19 forced most of our cultural activities to be postponed but film turned out to be the art form that could definitely work in online form. So although we were very sorry that we could not host the international film community this year in Torun, we are more than certain that making the event online was a sound decision that brought a number of promotional gains to our city, including inspiring lots of virtual participants to come here physically.

How were you involved in the agreement to bring EnergaCamerimage back to its first home?

Even though the festival was organized in other Polish cities for the last 20 years, we could still feel its presence in Torun. It is here that the Tumult Foundation, the festival’s organizer, has its headquarters. I believe most of the ideas EnergaCamerimage became identified with over the years were born right here in Torun. For me, the return of such a prestigious event was something quite natural, and I supported the organizers’ efforts in doing so.

Also it was very important to me and the festival’s organizers to make sure that EnergaCamerimage will stay here so that the city can support it and fully utilize its potential. This means, among other things, making sure the services and accommodation here will be of the highest quality. Even more, I want the international film community to stay in Torun all year long, not only for the festival week.

How did the government funding agreement for the future film center and festival hub come about?

When the option of getting the Polish government to subsidize two thirds of the overall cost of building the European Film Center Camerimage came along, I personally led the negotiations with the government and I assured its representatives that Torun will allocate the remaining one third of the overall cost. I was successful in convincing Torun’s city council to support the concept of building the European Film Center Camerimage in Torun.

What are some of the economic benefits the European Film Center should bring in?

I am positive that the benefits will be enormous. Organizing the subsequent editions of the international film festival in the center, when it’s built, will give a boost to the tourism and hotel industry, it will give new growth to restaurants, advertisers, transport services, not to mention the creative sector. Needless to say, increasing Torun’s visibility abroad can lead to interesting business deals. Building the center itself is going to bring new jobs to local entrepreneurs and I am certain that many related industries will profit from providing services to the cultural institution governing the center.

What makes the festival a good strategic partner for the city and the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region?

The festival’s organizers have proven time and again that they know how to make an event of the highest artistic, organizational and technological quality. What’s more, they proved that there is nothing they cannot do. They are efficient and professional and I have no doubts that they will overcome any challenges waiting ahead.

Are the educational aspects of EnergaCamerimage important for the city and country?

The festival is known for workshops, seminars and meetings with the most prominent professionals of world cinema and I strongly believe this is only a fraction of what the organizers can do if properly supported. I am exhilarated that EnergaCamerimage and the European Film Center Camerimage are going to places in which Torun’s youth will be sparked with passion for the art of film. Who knows? Maybe one of Tourn’s high schools is educating a new Coppola, Tarantino or Spielberg as we speak. I definitely count on having more and more international students in Torun, as well as developing partnerships with schools, colleges and universities worldwide.