The third Transatlantyk Festival, which showcases film and music with over 150 screenings and concerts by Yoko Ono and Thurston Moore, who will perform Aug. 7, opened Friday in the gorgeously historic Polish city of Poznan.
Attendance rose from 35,000 to 41,000 in the first two years of the fest, founded by its creative director, Oscar-winning composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. "Attendance is up 30 percent this year, to about 53,000," says Kaczmarek. "The second year, 2012, we built Transatlantyk into an international brand, but the third year is the big success."
Highlights of Transatlantyk 2013 include free master classes by Oscar nominated composer Marco Beltrami (The Hurt Locker, Snowpiercer), composer Peter Golub (Frozen River), and Emmy and three-time Oscar winning sound mixer David MacMillan (The Right Stuff, Game Change). MacMillan, a font of Hollywood stories, said that when he worked on Nixon, "Oliver Stone was so nervous he put his hand in my pocket, thinking it was his pocket. That's Oliver."
No one seemed nervous at Transatlantyk, a festival as efficient as clockwork. Kaczmarek credits it to his own transatlantic training in Poland and Hollywood, "We're bringing people in to alter the software of Eastern European artists. I was an egomaniacal young artist who talked only to God. Hollywood taught me punctuality and structure, and I'm very grateful for that. I still have my Eastern European spirit and craziness sometimes, but now I have precision too."
Transatlanyk events were packed even after midnight, when festgoers watched movies in 60 double beds in the Open-Air Cinema as dancers wearing headphones rocked out to tunes broadcast from the Silent Disco nearby. Not even a torrential cloudburst at 3:30 a.m. Sunday could disperse the crowd.
On Aug. 4, it was standing room only at the spectacular Concert Hall of Adam Mickiewicz University, as Varèse Sarabande Records celebrated its 35th anniversary with a concert of film music by all-stars from Kaczmarek to Alexandre Desplat to Beltrami. Varèse Sarabande executive Robert Townson, who hosted the concert and has released over 1,200 albums, noted that with Michael Giacchino's score for Star Trek Into Darkness, "We're still going strong." Adam Banaszak conducted Orchestra L'Autunno, whose performers appeared in closeup on a videoscreen dominating the wall behind them, their images alternating with scenes from the films whose scores they played.
Though Townson introduced Alex North's "Spartacus Love Theme" by calling North "the great film scorer of all time," several audience members agreed that the most stunning piece of the evening was the finale, Elmer Bernstein's To Kill a Mockinbird score arranged by Austin Wintory. During the standing ovation, the clapping was rhythmic, almost musical. "If you clap before the end in Poland, you're considered an uneducated moron," says Kaczmarek. "It's the remains of the court culture. It drives me crazy. I don't know a composer who minds if you applaud during a piece when it moves you."
After the concert, The Hollywood Reporter asked ASCAP award-winning Breaking Bad composer Dave Porter, who was dancing on the steps of the Silent Disco, to take off his headphones and discuss the Transatlantyk Instant Composition Contest he will help jury. Contestants must compose a live solo piano piece to pair with a short film immediately after having watched it.
"It's a very cool idea," said Porter. "In TV composing, there isn't much time, so it's good experience. And they're giving away $17,500." Porter gave a rave review to the Varèse Sarabande concert. "To be honest, I don't love listening to film music on record, outside the film. But hearing them all together here, live, is amazing." Who knew Kaczmarek's score for Hachi: A Dog's Tale was so ethereally lovely, or that it made him a kind of folk hero in Japan? "You hear three minutes of James Horner's Aliens and you realize how much it influenced other scores down the years, and probably my own."
The Transatlantyk Festival continues through Aug. 9.