The American Film Festival in Wroclaw (formerly Breslau) Poland, the first film event in Eastern Europe, was just held October 20 – 24, 2010. Solely devoted to the works of contemporary and classic American cinema, it allows Polish audiences to become acquainted with the contemporary American cinema, as well as the culture and reality of the United States. Debra Granik’s Sundance winner Winter’s Bone (Fortissimo) picked up the festival’s American Independent Narrative Audience Award, which carries a cash prize of $10,000 and a chance at Eastern European distribution. Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist’s The Two Escobars won the $5,000 Documentary Features Audience Award.
The festival presents the latest films by both internationally established directors and unknown filmmakers. Although American films dominate Polish cinemas, they are chiefly commercial productions distributed globally by major film studios. Many quality and universal, but less commercial films are not released in Poland at all. The festival aims to introduce new names and phenomena in the American cinema to the Polish audiences. Currently, American cinema is perceived as a huge supermarket creating products to be sold globally. Strongly present in Europe, the stereotypical perception of the American film industry is based on the false opposition: the artistically sophisticated independent Europe versus commercially oriented America. The festival wants to break through this stereotype.
The AFF also educational aspects. Aside from the latest productions, classics will be presented through directors’, and actors’ retrospectives, genres and themes. The retrospectives will create a background for the presentation of contemporary films and will disclose the multitude of links between the present day and the past years of American cinema. They will provide a pretext for showing the themes that have run through American films since the beginning, such as counterculture, the American Dream, Afro-Americans, war and pacifism, music culture, or metropolis.
Since the beginning, American cinema has taken an active interest in the current events of its home country. Thus, the films presented at the festival will contribute to various seminars, lectures as well as discussions on social, political and cultural issues.
The American Film Festival is the first such undertaking in Poland and, besides the festival in Deauville, France, it is also unique in Europe.
Filmmaker Bill Morrison Presents His Newest Film In Wroclaw at its World Premiere
AFF showed filmmaker Bill Morrison’s newest film, Spark of Being, a nostalgic treatise on the nature of creation. The starting point is the story of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, to note the 100 year anniversary of the first silent film adaptation of the famed Mary Shelly novel. Here, Morrison presents his take on the classic tale, using striking visual imagery to delineate the monster’s unique position between decay and living flesh. Morrison follows in the good doctor’s footsteps by digging up rotting film fragments and making them whole again, bringing new life to the deteriorated celluloid. In this process, the images take on a life of their own…..changing colors, creating bulges and crumples, pulsating with their own organic life, set to an electro-jazz rhythm score by Dave Douglas. The film has been presented with live musical accompaniment at museums, mediatheques, concert halls and music clubs, but this is the first time that it is being presented solely as a film in a film festival environment.
Morrison began his career as a designer of visualization for some of New York’s most adventurous avant-garde theaters. His series of short films since 1990, including such celebrated works of the avant-garde as THE NIGHT HIGHWAY, THE FILM OF HER, TRINITY and THE MESMERIST have won awards at film festivals in Berlin, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro. His feature debut, the celebrated DECASIA in 2002, has been hailed as one of the most important experimental films of the last decade. SPARK OF BEING has its world premiere debut as part of The Cutting Edge section of visually adventurous films that include such other titles as DOUBLE TIDE (Sharon Lockhart), NY EXPORT: OPUS JAZZ (Henry Joost and Jody Lee Lipes), OPEN (Jae Yuzna) and THE OWLS (Cheryl Dunye). For a complete list of films and events at the inaugural American Film Festival, visit: www.AmericanFilmFestival.pl
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