One year before its upcoming premiere in the Venice Film Festival’s Horizons section, Polish director Damian Kocur’s feature debut “Bread and Salt” screened for a select audience of industry tastemakers in Wrocław, Poland. In 2019, Jan Komasa’s “Corpus Christi” played in the same showcase for upcoming Polish films before launching its campaign for best international feature ahead of the 92nd Academy Awards.
It’s an indication of the growing muscle of Wrocław’s New Horizons Film Festival and its industry arm, Polish Days, that producers, festival programmers, sales agents and distributors from around the globe make the summer trek to the historic university city, with its Gothic and Baroque architectural marvels situated on the Oder River.
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Since launching in 2013 in cooperation with the Polish Film Institute, Polish Days has become the premiere event to discover new Polish cinema, building on the “growing number of Polish films and growing interest” in the local film business, said New Horizons’ head of industry Weronika Czołnowska.
The event has built an enviable track record. Along with launching the award-season run of “Corpus Christi” in 2019, Polish Days was the springboard for Anna Jadowska’s “Woman on the Roof,” which premiered in the International Narrative Competition at Tribeca this year, and Michał Chmielewski’s “Roving Woman,” which was executive produced by Wim Wenders and bowed in Tribeca’s Viewpoints section.
Other recent success stories include Anna Kazejak’s Karlovy Vary premiere “Fucking Bornholm” and Aleksandra Terpińska’s “Other People,” which bowed last year at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.
Twenty-two projects were presented at this year’s event, which took place from July 24 – 26, including 10 films in early stages of development and eight works in progress seeking potential partners. An additional four completed films were presented to festival programmers, sales agents, broadcasters and streaming platforms as they sought to use Polish Days as a launching pad for international distribution.
The selection, said Czołnowska, offered a mix of debut and established filmmakers working across a range of genres, from “classic drama, which Polish cinematography is known and respected for…to more experimental projects, thrillers, dramedies, family movies.” Many also incorporated elements of comedy and black humor, something she described as “quite fresh and new in Polish cinema.”
Also breathing fresh life into the industry: the 30% cash rebate that was introduced in 2019, which Czołnowska has credited with increasing interest from foreign partners looking to join Polish projects as co-producers.
The Polish Days program has steadily grown from a small-scale event to one with global reach. “It’s not only that we expanded outside of Europe…we’re also getting [guests] from the United States, from Asia, from different corners of the world,” said Czołnowska.
The 2022 edition attracted roughly 230 international industry guests, almost on par with the last pre-pandemic event. No further proof of its success is needed than the fact that the organizers no longer have to work to put Polish Days on the map, according to Czołnowska. “Sales agents and festival programmers and producers interested in co-production with Poland now approach us to come to Wrocław.”
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