Mastercard OFF CAMERA 2023
Friday, April 28, 2023 - Sunday, May 7, 2023
Stars of Polish and world cinema, outdoor screenings, backgrounds to TV series, concerts by artists from all corners of Europe – all in Kraków’s unique atmosphere!
Last year, I travelled a whopping 7387 kilometres to reach Mastercard OFF CAMERA. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the long May weekend featuring my favourite film festival in Poland. I flew to Kraków via Bergamo, Madrid and Alicante, and drove via Bielsko-Biała, Cieszyn and Zakopane. “You’re crazy!” my friends told me. And while I was delighting in the long journey, I was already looking forward to Mastercard OFF CAMERA. I simply can’t imagine the weekend without meeting friends at screenings, exchanging high-fives on the way to the cinema, studying the programme, hanging out at the festival village and heated (friendly!) discussions on the films we’d just seen.
This festival is a real favourite of mine. Over a decade ago, when I was still a student, I worked here as a volunteer. Back then, Mastercard OFF CAMERA received over 1600 applications for volunteering positions from as far afield as India. Of course there weren’t enough spaces for everyone, so only a few us were fortunate to learn some of the secrets of cinema. I gained far more from the festival than just a look behind the scenes – I met plenty of people I am still in touch with today. We watch films together as friends: we have a tradition where we meet in Kraków in late April and early May to celebrate independent cinema together. And so when I think about the next, 16th festival, I am already giddy with excitement!
So what does this year’s programme have in store? “We will present cinema which draws you in, offers a commentary on the world and encourages you to think, sometimes even suggesting solutions,” promises Szymon Miszczak, director of Mastercard OFF CINEMA. He also reminds us that the difficulties of the pandemic aren’t that far behind. “Our society, culture and the world of cinema have felt it keenly – yet it’s also true that films show us stories which bring us hope and inspire us to act. Make sure you spend your weekend with us! And we promise that Kraków – the most highly cultured city in Poland – once again welcomes acclaimed filmmakers, directors and actors, and the most enthusiastic and engaged audience in the country,” adds Miszczak.
Prestige, money, fame
The main elements of Mastercard OFF CAMERA are its two competitions. The main competition Making Way features ten debuts or second productions by filmmakers from all over the globe. The winner receives the Andrzej Wajda Kraków Film Prize and a whopping 25,000 USD. Past winners include Jagoda Szelc for Tower. A Bright Day (2018) and the Danish director Marianne Blicher for Miss Viborg (2022). Representatives of Polish cinema go head to head in the Polish Feature Film Competition. Ten best films of the last season compete for a prize of 100,000 zlotys, and statuettes will also be awarded for best actor and best actress.
“We hope that the carefully selected films, shown as part of both competitions and during other permanent and brand-new sections of the festival, will show our audiences different ways of life. More than anything, they will have a powerful impact on our sensitivities and serve as a much-needed lesson of empathy and compassion,” says Grzegorz Stępniak, artistic director of the festival.
One of the jurors in the Polish Feature Film Competition is Debbie McWilliams, the iconic casting director responsible for myriad films including 14 instalments of the James Bond saga. She is a member of the Casting Directors Guild, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the International Casting Directors Network. The great news is that if she spots a potential talent in Polish filmmakers, we’ll soon know about it!
The festival also includes traditional special sections. “We’ll explore the concept of the family and its shifting definitions, the role of women and state-of-the-art technologies which are as likely to make our lives better as they are more complicated,” adds Miszczak. The first of four new sections, Adventures Ahoy!, sees a great return to New Adventure Cinema of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Films presented in this section reveal how young directors are adapting conventions of adventure cinema to independent productions.
Films collected under the banner Herstories place women at the centre of cinema as protagonists and filmmakers. The third section, Family Circle, explores new concepts of the family, not necessarily defined by blood ties and biological relationships. Finally, the section Techno Party encourages the audience to consider the pros and cons of the inevitable technological progress.
Kraków’s audiences are perfectly familiar with the remaining two cycles: Independent Americans is a review of films from across the pond, while Festival Hits features productions awarded prizes at festivals all over the globe. Screenings will be held in cinemas and plenty less obvious locations in- and outdoors.
This year also sees the return of the audience favourite SerialCon, featuring marathon night-time screenings, meetings with special guests and workshops.
Mastercard OFF CAMERA also looks after filmmaking circles and presents plenty of opportunities for networking. That’s the goal of Pro Industry Mastercard OFF CAMERA: Kraków becomes a centre of meetings for an international group of filmmakers, producers, directors, screenwriters, experts and consultants. “During discussion panels, workshops and coproduction workshops, we will discover new project ideas, share experiences from film production and overcoming challenges, and discuss best ways of distributing Polish films. This year we will explore opportunities available to up-and-coming artists entering the industry and transferring their ideas to the big screen, the state of Polish cinema in the context of distribution, and other topics keeping producers awake at night,” promises Michał Zalewski from Mastercard OFF CAMERA.
More than music
An important music accent of Mastercard OFF CAMERA will be a special event dedicated to Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and his role in promoting Polish culture around the globe.
Fascinating opportunities, meetings with fellow cinephiles, discussions on featured films… Mastercard OFF CAMERA is sure to bring unforgettable experiences which will stay with us forever. Now try telling me that cinema isn’t magical! Just like last year, I’ll do everything in my power to reach Kraków in time for the festival – even if I have to cover 7387 km once again!
Marta Gruszecka – journalist with a light, jesting style, she writes for publications including the “Gazeta Wyborcza” daily. Dedicated cat slave, especially of black and tortoiseshell kitties. Marathon runner who never gives up.
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