A cross-section of works by revered masters and new faces will take center stage at the Polish American Film Festival (AFF), whose 13th edition will take place November 8-13 in Wrocław, Poland.
Created in 2010 as a sister event to the New Horizons Film Festival, a showcase for independent and arthouse cinema launched in 2001, the AFF presents itself as the first cinematic event in Central Europe solely devoted to the works of the contemporary and classic American cinema.
“We are looking for those voices, those authors, those talents and trends, and those waves of American films that are the most original and show vibrations of the current moment,” said festival director Ula Śniegowska.
Similar in spirit to the Deauville American Film Festival, which is hosting its 48th edition this year, the AFF aims to highlight the breadth and diversity of contemporary American cinema.
Śniegowska describes last year’s opening film, ‘The French Dispatch’ by Wes Anderson (pictured), as a ‘perfect example of the spectrum of the festival we cover’, ranging from ‘studio films with the cachet of an author” to smaller indies that showcase “new talent and new trends in American cinema”.
“To satisfy and attract the public, it is usually done with bigger names. Luckily, America has these studio-backed author names, like Wes Anderson or Jim Jarmusch, not to mention PT Anderson. Recognizable names and talents that appeal to a wider audience,” she continued. “But we also want to go underground and look over there and also show experimental and low-budget but higher creative energy films.”
The selection process is naturally inspired by events featuring the best of American independent cinema, with many titles screened in Wrocław having premiered at festivals such as Sundance, SXSW or Tribeca. The programming team, however, also has a general call for submissions that can “sometimes find films that aren’t on the circuit yet,” Śniegowska said.
The festival has two competition streams, the Spectrum section offering a panorama of contemporary American cinema focused on mid-career filmmakers and those making significant directorial debuts, alongside the American Docs competition for non-fiction films. -fiction. Last year’s winners, which are chosen by members of the public, were Diego Ongaro’s “Down with the King” and Angela Washko’s “Workhorse Queen”.
In addition to non-competitive sections highlighting the work of more established directors, the AFF annually presents its Indie Star Award to a recognized master of independent filmmaking. Past winners include Todd Solondz, Jerry Schatzberg, Sarah Driver and John Waters (below), who accompanied his award and 2021 retrospective with a performance of his stand-up show “This Filthy World” and a performance by dragsters featuring artists from all over Poland.
This year’s award will go to Nina Menkes, a veteran independent filmmaker known for such titles as the Locarno premieres ‘The Bloody Child’ and ‘Phantom Love’ and the documentary ‘Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power’, who starred at this year’s Berlinale. .
Another festival highlight is the US in Progress program, which invites US narrative feature film projects in rough or final cut to seek finishing funds, matching them with European buyers and top Polish post-production companies. production of images and sound. This year, the event will offer cash and in-kind prizes totaling $100,000.
“It’s a great way to approach low-budget independent American filmmakers by inviting them to Poland when they start their production,” Śniegowska said. “It’s so wonderful to have the first audience in Europe and to hear feedback from [the industry]…and to hear their criticism and support. Recent alumni of the program include Pete Ohs, whose horror film “Jethica” premiered this year at SXSW.
Also in the cards is the first chapter of a two-part retrospective dedicated to Robert Altman, the prolific and iconoclastic filmmaker who was nominated for five Academy Awards as a director. “Altman’s America,” Śniegowska said, will highlight “those Altman films that are a sharp critique of American society.” Next year, the American Film Festival will present “Altman’s Women”, a selection of films centered on women by the director.
The program for this year’s American Film Festival has not yet been announced, although the festival has racked up an enviable track record for critically acclaimed films, including Polish premieres of titles such as Kelly’s “First Cow.” Reichardt, “American Utopia” by David Byrne. and “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” by Eliza Hittman.
Last year’s hybrid event saw 36,000 admissions for both in-person and online screenings, an attendance rate Śniegowska described as “super good” in light of the scale of the five-day event. . Nevertheless, she admits, “there is still room to grow”.