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TERRY CLOKE REPORTS BACK FROM KRAKOW INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Terry Cloke from Ipswich Film Society reports back on his experience on the jury for the 60th Krakow International Film Festival, which took place from 30 May – 7 June 2020.

What do you do if you’ve spent the last 12 months organising an international film festival and along comes a pandemic lockdown?  The answer for the organisers of the 60th Krakow Film Festival was to turn it into an online event.  I got involved quite late on in the festival planning process.  The April edition of Cinema For All Newsreel sent out a call for a Cinema For All member to potentially represent UK community cinemas on an International Federation of Film Societies (FICC) jury that was judging the short film section of the festival.  I was delighted to find out that my application had been successful, and I joined two other jurors, Mira Rusin from Poland and Chris Hormann from New Zealand.

Our task was to watch the 39 short films that had been entered into the competition for the Don Quixote award.  I am a big fan of short films and so the prospect of watching the 13 fiction, 13 documentary and 13 animation shorts was very exciting.  The topics were wide ranging including humour, violence, paedophilia, abortion, social isolation, climate change and people with special needs.  Not surprisingly some of the subject matter pulled me out of my comfort zone.

To start with I viewed all 39 shorts and gave them a quick reaction rating on a three-point scale of “immediately engaging”, “not sure what that’s trying to say” and “no way would I show this to my audience”.  Several films that had this instant connection.  In the fiction category the Spanish Los Benegalas is the heart-warming story of an ageing amateur pop band on their last tour and coming to terms with the early signs of dementia.  The UK entry Innocence is a crime drama set in a social welfare house for young people with Down’s syndrome.  It features an outstanding performance from Tommy Jessop in the lead role.  One of the most impressive entries from a technical point of view was the Polish Problem.  A single 15-minute tracking shot follows a series of dramas in the courtyard of an apartment building as characters seamlessly enter, leave and re-enter the frame.

In the documentary section a Polish entry, Dad You’ve Never Had, records the director’s attempt to reconnect with the father who abandoned the family when she was in her teens, but can time heal wounds?  A different take on sacrifice is I Need the Handshakes, set in a remote part of Belarus.  It tells the story of 92-year-old Walentyna who has cared selflessly for her disabled daughter, resisting all attempts of the authorities to put her in a home.  But perhaps the most challenging entry in the documentary category was Just a Guy.  The true story of Richard Ramirez, a convicted serial murderer and rapist, and the women who formed relationships with him while he was in prison.

By far the most unashamedly entertaining category of the three sections was the animation.  Surgical masks have been in the news lately.  Beyond Noh is a 4-minute quickfire compilation of 3475 ceremonial masks from around the world choreographed to a superb drumming soundtrack.  Quite hypnotic.  Statistics are another feature of modern life and Swiss animator Maja Gehrig’s film Average Happiness starts with a university lecture on data and graphs that morphs into a colourful kaleidoscope of facts and figures that is visually stunning.  In complete contrast there was the risqué Valley of the Wild Wolves from Estonian-born animator Chintis Lundgren.  It’s the story of Toomas who loses his desk job, starts a new career as a plumber and ends up in Italian porn-movies.  Great fun and follows in the tradition of another risqué animation from the 1970’s, Fritz the Cat.

Our jury met using Zoom and initially we all had different reactions to the three categories.  Each of us spoke about which of the films we particularly liked and those that didn’t engage us.  Hearing how our fellow jury members had reacted to the films prompted us to re-evaluate some of the entries and we agreed to meet again a week later.  At that meeting we unanimously agreed that Innocence by UK film-maker Ben Reid was the winner.  We were impressed by the lead actor Tommy Jessop, who has Down syndrome, and by the use of a crime drama setting to explore an often-ignored section of society.  It was also clear that one other film stood out as deserving of a special mention.  I Need the Handshakes was singled out for the beautiful cinematography and the startling expression of unconditional love of a mother for her disabled daughter.

It has been a real pleasure to be involved in this process and I feel extremely lucky to have been part of this jury and contribute to the Krakow Film Festival.  It was a unique experience and I would welcome the chance to do it again.

Words: Terry Cloke

SUKAYNA – FICC JURY AT CAMINHOS DO CINEMA PORTUGUESE

On October 25th, I found out that I had been selected to be on the FICC Jury at Caminhos do Cinema Português Festival in Coimbra from November 24th to December 2nd. After the initial shock and excitement calmed down, I set about preparing for Portugal.

Caminhos do Cinema Português is the 6th biggest Film Festival in Portugal, primarily showcasing Portuguese Cinema but also providing many international and student offerings, with support from the University of Coimbra. I arrived in Coimbra on the eve of the festival, where I was given a full run down on my duties as a jury member. What really struck me was how they managed to deliver such a great festival, screening over 150 films, which such a small team of staff and volunteers. They pulled off an incredible feat!

As a Jury representing the Fédération Internationale des Ciné-Clubs (F.I.C.C.), we had to select the recipient of Don Quijote Prize for a film that represents the philosophy of the Film Society Movement. We each had to watch the 60 films, ranging from fictional features, documentaries, animations and shorts, included in the Caminhos Selection to find our winner. We usually viewed the films in theatre with the audiences, but as the festival went on, we realised that we had to fit the last three days of screenings within two, so the festival team could contact the winners. I started playing catch up before and after the scheduled screenings to ensure every films got its fair chance, almost missing breakfast one morning!

To fill our Jury, we had Portuguese Tiago Cerveira, who studied and now works in Coimbra. As a talented filmmaker, he has strong passion for documentaries and films that represent people with different backgrounds in society. He was an invaluable support during the festival, providing cultural and historical context, that increased my appreciation for many of the films. Konrad Domaszewski joined us from Poland, who like Tiago, is a Filmmaker, but also an actor, programmer and master of comedy. We often came together at meals, when he would teach me about the logistics and financial implications of making a film. I, myself am a programmer in volunteer-led cinema, so between us we were able to consider the films from every angle.

When is came to picking a winner, we each had our own methods for shortlisting our favourites: Tiago would rate every film after their screenings; Konrad picked his favourite as he went along; and I made notes on every film, which I reviewed and compared after seeing the full selection to create my own shortlist. On the Friday evening of the festival, we came together and compared our shortlists. Finding common ground in 5 films, we discussed each in turn until we were left with our two standout films. We debated the films fiercely, with Tiago and Konrad favouring one each. Ultimately we picked the film that we felt best represented the Film Society movement.

After choosing our winning film, we had one last job, to present the winner at the Award Ceremony – Terra Franca by Leonor Teles:

In an honest portrayal of family, unaffected by the constant presence of a camera, Albertino struggles to find purpose in the face of a threat to his livelihood. There is a simplicity to this film that captures a real family with real problems and we get a raw insight into Albertino through his interactions with other people in his world.

We chose to award the Don Quijote Prize to this film because while being such an authentic Portuguese story, the struggles faced by this family, the uncertainty of working class life, are relatable to ordinary people across different nations. Most importantly it provides hope that the hard times won’t last.

There were so many incredible films as the festival but there was one that we felt deserved a Special Mention – Maria by Catarina Neves Ricci:

The filmmaker has created an intimate, raw portrayal that is able to invoke such strong emotions in a viewer, having a great impact despite a short runtime. The subject is universal, but it’s rare to see such a empathetic perspective, with close ups and an honest view of the body that really capture fragility.

One of the highlights of the festival had to be the award ceremony – having spoken to many filmmakers throughout the festival, I gained a real understanding of how passionate they were about their work and could really feel how much receiving this recognition for their work meant to them.

While we could only pick one winner and award one special mention, there were a number of films I will remember and recommend to other film fans:

Entre Sombras was an incredible stop-motion Noir, featuring a strong female who refused to let life get her down; Agouro, a beautiful animation, where any still could be framed and put in an art gallery; Até que o porno nos separe / Until porn do us part, a touching documentary about love and acceptance between a parent and child.

Having the opportunity to attend Caminhos do Cinema Português Festival was invaluable for me as a member of a community cinema as it gave me a great insight into the areas of the film industry that were unknown to me. Before the festival I had never seen a Portuguese film and I left a fan. Festivals are the perfect platform for exhibitors to discover new content and to connect them with filmmakers, to provide perspective on their work. In particular not-for-profit cinemas often have the ability to be more adventurous with their programming and festivals are a great opportunity to find gems that may not make it to commercial cinemas. I, personally have been inspired to include short films in my own community cinema programme.

BE PART OF INTO FILM FESTIVAL 2018

Into Film would like to invite your cinema to be part of the Into Film Festival 2018, which will take place from 7 – 23 November across the UK. The Into Film Festival is the world’s largest free film festival and aims to encourage young people to visit the cinema more often, building paying audiences for the future.

With over 600 venues participating in 2017, we had 486,000 students (aged 5-19) and teachers attending 3,000 screenings and special events across the UK. It’s a great opportunity to showcase your cinema and promote your upcoming programme and schemes to a captive audience.

The Festival opens up the world of film to young people, introducing them to different genres, and showcasing cinema as the gold-standard of film-viewing at a time when their social habits are forming. Many young people experience the cinema for the first time as part of the Festival, offering you the chance to forge new relationships and expand the audience base in your local area.

75% of young people who attended the 2017 Into Film Festival are more likely to go and see other films at the cinema as a result of the Festival –post-Festival student survey, 2017

“Business wise, it’s the venue promotion and exposure we got and the possible kids returning to our venue in the future with others – Exhibitor, post-Festival exhibitor survey, 2017

We would love to include your venue in our programme this year. If you would like to be involved or have any questions, contact our Festival Manager on megan.anstee@intofilm.org. We look forward to hearing from you!