What makes Warsaw Film Festival a ‘one of a kind’
This month 27th Warsaw Film Festival took place. It’s organised since 1985 which makes it the second oldest film festival in Poland after Gdynia Polish Film Festival. This year 370 movies were displayed, 152 filmmakers from 39 countries presented their projects in person and the festival audience amounted to 111 000 people.
WFF is an A category festival which means it’s one of the 14 Film Festivals accredited by International Federation of Film Producers Associations next to such festivals as Cannes, Venice, San Sebastian, Berlin, Karlovy Vary, Moscow, Shanghai, Locarno, Montreal, Tokyo, Cairo, Goa and Mar del Plata.
“There are very few film festivals in the world whose programmes have so many continental (in our case – European), international, and world premieres, where so many filmmakers from all over the world present their projects in person, and which are as open as the Warsaw Film Festival”, says Stefan Laudyn, the WFF’s director.
I asked Monika Rybaczyk, WFF Jury Secretary for 1-2 competition for first and second feature films by directors from all over the world, to tell me what makes the festival different from the others and what influence media has on organising the event.
Monika Rybaczyk has graduated in 2010 from University College London, where she studied BA Language and Culture, with a special focus on film studies. She then concluded MA Culture and Creative Industries on King’s College London, where she wrote a thesis on the relationship between cultural policy and cultural festivals in Warsaw, Poland.
1. What makes Warsaw Film Festival different from the other film festivals?
As the festival director, Stefan Laudyn, himself stated: Warsaw Film Festival is different from other festivals in terms of its programme and the original character of its location. Warsaw is a city with a very particular history, that affected the mentality of both its inhabitants and space and that is always taken into consideration by festival organizers. In more practical terms, the festival has developed a lot during recent years: there are more films, guests and people in the audience. WFF has also for 10 years brought together the film industry. It hosts CentEast fair, which is a meeting place for cinema professionals interested in films from Eastern and Central Europe. It is also worth mentioning that this festival does not focus on big stars and glamorous industry names, but rather attempts to show and promote less known artists and films that normally would have no chance of being seen by audiences outside the country of production. All in all, the festival, which is one of the most important international film festivals in the world, recognized as such by FIAPF (Federation of Film Producers Associations), differs from other such events in its attitude towards programming and location. WFF is certainly a recognizable festival brand all over the world.
2. Is there less interest in the festival since people can download movies online? Would you say it has influence on the audience?
The festival audience is growing every year (as happens with other film festivals in Warsaw, such as Planete Doc Film Festival), and I don’t think that a more widespread phenomenon of downloading films from the Internet will change that. It seems to me that the target festival audience seeks films that are generally hard to find, from faraway countries and they cannot be easily downloaded. Film festivals are also about the whole cinema experience and its uniqueness, something that is missing when you watch a film, often of poor quality on a small computer screen. Watching a film during a festival is a collective experience, with a dream-like atmosphere of the turned off lights, of the concentration on the screen. Day to day cinema-going is and will be more and more affected by the possibilities that Internet offers, however film festivals, at least for now, remain a unique experience with a loyal audience.
3. How do you use new media to promote festival?
There are various ways in which the festival uses new media. First of all, and this is very obvious, it has its own, very informative website, constantly updated during the festival. Second of all, WFF has its own profile on Facebook, with all the necessary information, contests for the audience, during which you can win tickets or DVDs and where people are encouraged to exchange information on films in the programme, tickets they want to exchange etc. Another thing is FesTivi, which is Internet television that presents interviews with filmmakers and festival guests, coverage of galas, commentaries of film spectators etc. FesTivi is posted daily during the festival on YouTube, WFF website and Facebook.
4. Would you say that Internet helps in spreading the news about festival?
Without a doubt, Internet helps in festival marketing. It is an invaluable source of information, space for spectators exchange of opinions and information too. If the festival wants to reach as many people as possible, it is crucial to use new channels of communication and WFF tries to do it.
5. Do you think Internet is the reason why festival became so popular and well known?
I don’t think that Internet is the main reason why the festival is now so popular. It is definitely part of reason why it’s developing, however, it is WFF’s long history and professional character that built its prestige and popularity. It should be noted that it is only for a couple of years now, that WFF noted the potential of new media in its promotion and before it functioned without it. I do think, though, that through Internet, the festival may have reached more its younger audience, which uses social networking sites etc. on a daily basis.