Director of the Warsaw Film Festival: Thirty years of hard work. I & nbsp; already!

Director of the Warsaw Film Festival: Thirty years of hard work. I & nbsp; already!

It is much easier to copy a program from Cannes, Berlin or Venice, or simply call the Polish distributors. It is more difficult to search for the works of unknown directors from often exotic countries, take a chance and bring them back, believing that they are the right people and valuable propositions - says Stefan Laudyn.

STEFAN LAUDYN: - We organize a cultural event with the team. A party is when friends are invited home. I became a director in & nbsp; 1991, which is my 29th festival in the role of the boss. I would add that the core of the team are still people with whom I started working then. My path to being a festival director was quite unusual, because I learned my profession abroad. Before I came to Gdynia for the first time, I participated in many other world festivals, & nbsp; San Sebastian, London, Berlin, Rotterdam, Cannes. I gained experience on them and learned how it should look like. When I came to Gdynia for the first time, I wasn't sure what & nbsp; what was going on there.

Until 1990 it was the Warsaw Film Week, but more and more questions were asked: what is this film week? We were fed up with the translation that it was a film festival, in addition an international one. So we decided to make amends to the questioners and change the name to the Warsaw International Film Festival, and there was no doubt.

Let's return to difficult beginnings. You have been associated with the festival since 1986. How did the work on its organization look like in that era, in the People's Republic of Poland?

I found my name after years in the & nbsp; 1986 catalog, but I certainly worked in & nbsp; 1985 in the same place as Mr. Gutek, i.e. in the & nbsp; Hybrydy club. I started as a person who speaks English. My first tasks were to translate letters with & nbsp; film invitations. At that time, festival technology looked completely different, to contact & nbsp; abroad, you had to order phone calls and & nbsp; wait for hours to connect. You could also write a letter or use telex, it is a large message sending machine, quite complicated. I learned how to handle it myself, in connection with the & nbsp; I had access to the heart of the organization.

These were not easy times of communism, but I do not recall more important battles with censorship, although the list of films was carried on Mysia street. I remember a funny situation for that. In those days, to organize a cultural event, you had to start by sending a request to the city council, to the culture department. In the application you had to write from which countries the films presented at the festival came from. It did not have to have anything to do with & nbsp; reality, it was about & nbsp; that the wrong countries were not on the list. For example, Israel, with which the People's Poland did not have diplomatic relations, or South Africa. I remember that one year we allowed ourselves, just for a joke, to enter on the Gabon list and & nbsp; we obtained permission. After years of & nbsp; I was delighted to see that in the end we have a & nbsp; film from & nbsp; Gabon. The joke came true after 30 years.

In 1988, the "Koyaanisqatsi" by Godfrey Reggio was the winner of the Audience Poll. I & nbsp; as the first film shown at the festival was widely distributed. It was a turning point for the festival?

Retaining independence. The Warsaw Film Festival has never got bogged down in politics. But the undoubted success is the very fact that overall & nbsp; managed to survive. Looking at such large projects from the outside, it seems that all this is carved in marble, eternal. In fact, it is a very unstable construction that the wind of history can fit in an instant.

In Poland, we have several well-functioning festivals, such as New Horizons or Tofifest, which is about to start in & nbsp; Toruń. What makes your festival separate?

We are distinguished by the application system, selection and program, which is a lot of world, international, European or Eastern European premieres. All foreign films are at least Polish premieres. There is no other such festival in Poland & nbsp; I hope that someday someone will go to great lengths and analyze it. In addition, we present very few films that have Polish distributors at the time of the WFF presentation. We create our own program. In & nbsp; this year we chose it from & nbsp; 4,000 entries from 122 countries. There were 180 items in it, including 111 full length films and 69 short films.

One of the & nbsp; films shown for the first time in Poland at the festival is 'Painted Bird' by Václav Marhoul based on the novel by Jerzy Kosinski, who premiered in Venice in the world.

In 1995, we hosted an unknown Austrian public director Michael Hanke, the creator of such films as "Love" or "Pianist." In & nbsp; 1997, a debut from Denmark appeared, Nicolas Winding Refn, who later became famous for the films "Drive" or "Only God Forgives." In & nbsp; 2000, we had Baltasar Kormakura, an Icelandic screenwriter and director of "101 Reykjavik," who has been working for & nbsp; Hollywood for years. In & nbsp; 2002 came a shy, kind, young Romanian Cristian Mungiu, who five years later won the Golden Palm in Cannes for the film "4 months, 3 weeks and & nbsp; 2 days". In 2004, one of his first international awards, the Warsaw Grand Prix for the film "Beautiful City", was won by Iranian Asghar Farhadi, later the creator of "Past", "Client" or "Rozstania", winner of two Oscars! In & nbsp; 2005, we hosted Irish debutant Lenny Abrahamson with the film "Adam & amp; Paul ". A decade later, his film "Peace" won the Audience Award in Warsaw, followed by an Oscar. In & nbsp; 2006, the WFF Audience Award and & nbsp; probably its first prize in & nbsp; in general was given to "Life on wiretapping" by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who also later won an Oscar.

It is much easier to copy a program from & nbsp; Cannes, Berlin or Venice or just call the Polish distributors. It is more difficult to search for the works of unknown directors from & nbsp; often exotic countries, take the risk and bring them in, believing that they are the right people and valuable propositions. The entire film production or distribution system is a high-risk business. In connection with this, people working in the industry try to reduce this risk by employing stars, investing in special effects or action scenes. Our festival does not have to do this, we do not have this burden or pressure that we want to have movies with & nbsp; big names. I don't follow the stars! They are born right before our eyes.

Only a dozen or so festivals in the world, such as Cannes, Venice, Berlin or Karlovy Vary, have an exclusive category A. 10 years ago it was awarded to the Warsaw Film Festival. What does it oblige to, and what does it give?

There are 15 of these festivals in the world, including Locarno, San Sebastian, Moscow, Shanghai and a few others. This means that I don't have to explain, traveling around the world, who I am and what I do, because everyone knows what the Warsaw Film Festival is. Since last year I belong to the festival committee of FIAPF, i.e. the International Association of the Federation of Film Producers, which grants these categories to festivals. I & nbsp; there I am with & nbsp; colleagues from Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto or Busan. In the & nbsp; first world league. And & nbsp; this is my natural environment.

If anything, I rather feel like an ambassador of Polish cinema abroad. I have been going to China regularly for a decade. I was also in & nbsp; Korea and & nbsp; in Japan. In 2015, the most important guest so far appeared, Her Imperial Highness Duchess Hisako Takamado, who came to Poland for a very short time, but found time to watch a Japanese film at the WFF in Multikino Złote Tarasy.

For me, everyone who trusts us and comes back to us is important. This is a long list. In this year's main competition, we have a demonstration of 'State of Emergency' by Vinko Brešana from & nbsp; Croatia with & nbsp; Daniel Olbrychski in the role of the president of this country. And the "Cat in the wall" of Bulgarian directors Mina Mililej and & nbsp; Vesely Kazakova in & nbsp; Competition 1-2. In both cases they are returns. Vinko Brešan was with us for the first time with his film about Marshal Tito 20 years ago. The girls were with us twice, once with their documentary "Uncle Tony, the security service and three fools" who caused them to have problems in their homeland. A & nbsp; last year came as a member of the jury.

It depends on your observation skills. With & nbsp; festivals it is like with & nbsp; poems and & nbsp; an exemplary student from & nbsp; stories "Poetry" by Sławomir Mrożek. Each set of films can be called a festival, just like any set of words can be called a poem. And as for the changes, of course you can say: boredom, still only movies and & nbsp; movies. And & nbsp; it will remain so because it is a film festival. With & nbsp; that they are new movies every year and & nbsp; many new directors.

We try to make each subsequent edition at least slightly better than the previous one. We & nbsp; are collecting very good reviews this year. A few minutes before our meeting, an anonymous viewer approached me and congratulated the high level of WFF. Such nice situations happen to me practically every day at this time of year. I have the impression that the festival could develop much faster, but we have serious budget problems. We could be at a completely different stage of development. Then nobody would question that we belong to the world leaders. It's funny that the reception of our festival abroad is probably better than here.

If we send an invitation, and a sales agent who knows us and cooperates with us, and there are very many of them, has an interesting movie, we often get the message: "listen, we have a new movie, watch it because another one wants it festival in & nbsp; Poland, but of course we can hold it for you. "

With our festival it is like an English lawn: we water, mow, water, mow. In the case of the festival, it's thirty years of hard work. I & nbsp; already! From a perspective of time it seems easy.

Yes, we've been trying to promote them for years, with successes. We have been organizing the Warsaw Screenings event since 2000. The idea was simple. There was no platform presenting new Polish productions with & nbsp; English subtitles for foreign professionals. Then, in & nbsp; 2000, we did such shows for representatives of festivals in & nbsp; Moscow, Rotterdam and & nbsp; a few others. We hit the & nbsp; point! A & nbsp; in 2013, we organized the "Ida" screening for the festival director in & nbsp; Toronto and & nbsp; so began her path to the Oscar.

Today, others also do it, e.g. Nowe Horyzonty or Gdynia. How do you assess the WFF's place compared to other festivals, e.g. London Film Festival or Thessaloniki Film Festival, which also focus on promoting debutants and filmmakers beginning their careers?

Everybody does it, but there is very little to & nbsp; By the way, I'm probably the last person to compare. From what I know, the London festival probably doesn't focus on rookies, and I stopped going there years ago, just like to Salonika. But I will tell an interesting anecdote from the & nbsp; festival in Thessaloniki. I was there with & nbsp; Małgośka Szumowska and & nbsp; Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieślak with the film "Happy man". We met Paweł Pawlikowski, who we didn't know before, and & nbsp; Dito Tsintsadze, a Georgian director. In the evening we went for a long Greek dinner, and the next day there was an award ceremony and they took almost all of them. They are friends even today.

Awareness that the festival is part of something bigger. A large system that covers production, distribution, and everything that happens around the cinema. We strive to be a useful element of the system.

The film is a form of communication between people, for me it is the most important. I met fantastic artists who do great things, and it gave my experience a whole new dimension. I remember the first such situation when I met director Żelimir Żilnik, a classic of Yugoslav cinema, the winner of Berlinale. We met one evening, we talked, and the next day I watched his film - and he was there, in this film, that is, he was not physically, but I felt that his work was felt his spirit, his personality. Fascinating experience!

Apparently, you like to play the guitar and & nbsp; even composed two songs for the film Grzegorz Lipiec "Day, in which I will die" from & nbsp; 2004.

Yes, I play classical guitar. Mr. Lipiec, who works for us, for the festival television team FesTiVi, needed music for a spot in the campaign for a politician from Zielona Góra. I offered him Bach's "Prelude in D minor" for a lute, he liked it. Anyway, Bach and & nbsp; Chopin are my favorite composers. I managed to record two albums with & nbsp; classical music. Maybe someday they will be released ...

Stefan Laudyn - director of the Warsaw Film Festival (since 1991), founder and director of the Warsaw Film Foundation, originator and organizer of the Warsaw Screenings (since 2000) and the CentEast Film Fair (since 2005). Involved in & nbsp; international promotion of Polish films. Polish coordinator of the European Film Awards ceremony in & nbsp; Warsaw (2006). Juror at festivals, including in & nbsp; Karlovy Vary, Moscow, Palm Springs, Mannheim; panelist, among others at festivals in & nbsp; Cannes, Berlin, SXSW (Austin, Texas), Angers (France), Beijing, Shanghai. Member of the permanent Jury of the Nipkow Program (since 2005), the Social Council for Culture at the President of Warsaw (2012-2015), the European Film Academy EFA (from 2000) and the Polish Film Academy (since 2004); in 2004–08 a member of the Management Board of EFA. Leader of the PISF minority co-productions committee (2019).

A sociologist with a psychological flair, a graduate of the Jagiellonian University. Interested in socio-psychological issues, social inequalities, an individual against the backdrop of hostile reality. Author of film and book reviews. He publishes in & nbsp; special editions of the Polityka weekly, in the & nbsp; JaMyOni Psychological Guidebook, in the portal and in & nbsp; other industry titles.

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