22 October, 2010
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
While the Polish public certainly is aware of the latest Hollywood films, and with current American television series also freely available here, it is a little surprising that some of the American indie world's most celebrated auteurs are virtually unknown. That is one of the goals of the inaugural American Film Festival, the first film event in Eastern Europe solely devoted to contemporary and classic American cinema. And if the size of the audiences at the screenings is any indication, the American indies will be as well known here as their Hollywood counterparts.
In the Festival section, Decade of Independents, Festival programmers are showcasing some of the most important and influential American indie films of the past ten years. Many of these films did not get an original theatrical release in Poland and some never even made it to the dvd market. However, with internet platforms now readily available to the public, there is an opportunity for the films to be rediscovered and for the filmmakers, long known in the West, to widen their reach into Eastern Europe.
The names are indeed impressive: Darren Aronofsky (represented here by the visually inventive REQUIEUM FOR A DREAM and the Mickey Rourke career comeback THE WRESTLER), The Coen Brothers (the stylish but sedate THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE), David Lynch (the master's surrealistic take on the allure of Hollywood, MULHOLLAND DRIVE), Spike Jonze (the wildly anarchic ADAPTATION), Gus Van Sant (the controversial and uncompromising GERRY and PARANOID PARK), Michael Moore (the compelling and disturbing portrait of the underbelly of rage and violence in American life, BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE) and Sofia Coppola (her breakthrough film LOST IN TRANSLATION).
Other auteurs being showcased include: Jonathan Couette (the autobiographical essay film TARNATION), Woody Allen (the deceptively lightweight meditation on human relations, ANYTHING ELSE), Todd Solondz (the surrealistic masterpiece PALINDROMES), Michel Gondry (the masterfully elusive and resonant meditation on memory, THE ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND), Jim Jarmusch (the child-like innocence of BROKEN FLOWERS and the existential thriller THE LIMITS OF CONTROL), Wes Anderson (the playful yet disonant animation film THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX) and Miranda July (the impressive debut ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW).
For those discovering these films for the first time or others interested in revisiting them, this is an astonishing program in and of itself. The fact that is only one of three retrospectives (with a complete look at the work of John Cassavetes and a potpourri of classic Hollywood gems) makes it all the more impressive. The American Film Festival boasts one of the most eclectic and enriching (and meaty) programs on the festival circuit.