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CULTURAL GUIDE: interview with Marcin Pieńkowski

The first half of August in Wrocław will be marked by film and provocation, thanks to this year’s edition of the T-Mobile New Horizons IFF. We will experience cinema that wakes us up. We are talking with Marcin Pieńkowski, artistic director of the Festival, about putting a cat among pigeons.

The New Horizons Association has given us quite a dilemma this year. Where to go – Wrocław or Supraśl?

These are two different festivals. New Horizons focus on the cinema at the highest level. Supraśl is all about the broadly understood slow life, being close to nature, slow food, music, literature and of course cinema. Meanwhile, Wrocław is going to be as intense as ever, with over 200 feature films, concerts, exhibitions and meetings with authors. There is nothing slow about that, no time to think about it all... But that is exactly the point.


Thanks to the presentation of film world map, the festival audience already experienced the cinema from New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, Greece and Mexico. This year’s programme features Israeli cinema as one of the showcases. What exactly made you choose Israel? 

with the freshness of its plot devices, commitment and constant confrontation with the surrounding world. Israeli cinema is diverse, constantly looking for new identities – just like the society it stems from. Since recently, there has been discussion about the “new Israeli wave”, taking the festivals worldwide by storm. During this year’s edition, we are going to take a closer look at what makes it so strong. I would especially recommend In Between, The Burglar, People That Are Not Me, and Through the Wall. What is interesting about all four of them is that they were all directed by women.


Premières and discoveries. We know for sure that no one should miss The Other Side of Hope by Aki Kaurismäki. What else is a must-see for all festival goers?


First of all, A Ghost Story – a unique film-poem about immortality and the way we imagine life after death. Although the film features A-class stars (Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara), it fits nicely into the theme of New Horizons – a combination of the films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul with American independent cinema. Then there are some outstanding hits from Cannes: phenomenal The Square by Ruben Östlund, which won the Palme d’Or, there is also Loveless, a strong erotic thriller by Andrey Zvyagintsev, we also have Amant Double by François Ozon, The Beguiled by Sofia Coppola with an outstanding cast, as well as many more interesting and strong titles, which are quickly going to be sold out. Myself, I would strongly recommend films entered into the competition, as we have a very strong line-up this year, including many discoveries from Poland and abroad. Give it a chance – you will not regret it.


You prepared retrospectives of the master of the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette, as well as Fred Kelemen – a long-term associate of the outstanding Béla Tarr. What films are worth watching first, if one would like to get to know more? What would you recommend as a starter?


With Rivette, I would recommend everybody start with The Beautiful Troublemaker, and for dessert, they should watch one of the parts of Out 1 – a film with running time of 13 hours, an amazing dream in film, which should be experienced in a cinema, an absolute – but sadly forgotten – masterpiece. You should not be afraid of the difficult and melancholic films by Fred Kelemen. Almost all of them were made black and white on a classical tape – Kelemen is a master of creating a slightly apocalyptic and decadent atmosphere. A meeting with his films and the director himself, since he is going to be one of the festival’s guests, will be a deep and very emotional experience.


Brexit. Nationalist tendencies. Black marches. The world experiences a wave of protests, and it could also be felt in Wrocław. This year’s edition of the festival will also include a new section – Protest Films. Protest and rebellion are the starting points for this year’s identification. What are you going to show us this year? What will be the key takeaways? Can we fight for a better tomorrow with cinema?


Rebellion, revolution, resistance, protest. Since its very beginning, cinema has been a tool of opposition. We want to see how it rebelled over the decades in various parts of the world and how it reacts to the contemporary reality. We wanted this section to be strong, controversial, provocative, to ask many difficult questions and encourage discussion. I think that the New Horizons Cinema will see many tumultuous discussions.



I will admit that I cannot wait for the Third Eye and Good Girls Gone Bad. Now that’s what I call a protest film! A woman decides to abandon her assigned role. She turns into a cannibal, a bitch, a beast. The men are in danger. Sounds like a horror. Is there anything to be afraid of?

There is! Especially after watching films like Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts or Flesh. We want our festival to deconstruct, crush stereotypes, put cats among pigeons and our provocative section does it amazingly well. If we made a standard feminist section, it would simply be boring.


Culture, including cinema, tends to reflect humanity’s state of mind. In one of the reviews from this year’s Cannes Festival I read: “the competition is dominated by films on violence, depression, failed relationships and human relations.” As an artistic director, you recently saw hundreds of new films. What are your experiences? What is the spirit of today’s cinema? What kind of world and human being does it describe?


Yes, it is true, as evidenced for example by Loveless, a film about the nightmare of divorce, the nightmare of a defenceless child, since it shows the parents as self-important egoists. Personally, I value films that are not necessarily difficult dramas and I am happy that this year’s festivals were won by some specific comedies. The Hungarian On Body and Soul is an unusual romantic comedy full of surreal twists. The Other Side of Hope by Aki Kaurismaki is a dark comedy on refugees, while The Square is a sophisticated, Buñuel-like satire on the brazen world of contemporary art. We are going to see them all in Wrocław. It makes me happy to think that contemporary cinema can still be multi-dimensional and distanced.


Full interview with Marcin Pieńkowski, artistic director of 17th T-Mobile New Horizons IFF can be found in summer edition of Wrocław Cultural Guide.

The bi-monthly issue of the Wrocław Cultural Guide was published in two languages (Polish and English). The issue also includes the announcements and teasers for cultural events in Ukrainian. The magazine is free and you can get it at Barbara – ECoC Infopoint, the New Horizons Cinema, as well as cultural institutions and selected cafes, bars and beaches in the city.​


      Photo: Marcin Jędrzejczak


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Marcin Pieńkowski: Będzie dużo burzliwych rozmów


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