Stefan Laudyn • Director, Warsaw Film Festival
by Martin Kudláč
- Warsaw Film Festival director Stefan Laudyn sat down with Cineuropa to discuss the festival's upcoming edition, programming policy and the Warsaw Next initiative
Stefan Laudyn has essentially been running the Warsaw Film Festival from the very beginning, working for the Warsaw Film Week since 1986. He became the head of festival in 1991, when the event started operating under a new name. In 1995, he founded the Warsaw Film Foundation, which organises the festival, co-founded the Alliance of Central and Eastern European Festivals, and currently acts as a script and production consultant. Cineuropa met up with Laudyn to discuss what is in store for the 32nd edition of the festival (7-16 October).
Cineuropa: The Warsaw Film Festival offers an overview of Central and Eastern European cinema, adjacent cinemas, as well as films from further corners of the world, such as Asian and Latin American territories. Besides interesting stories told through modern language of cinema, what other criteria do you have when looking for films?
Stefan Laudyn: In my humble opinion, the WFF is a proper international film festival, with films coming from all over the place – this year from 61 countries. It's always important that, apart from the aforementioned criteria, the film to actually move you.
How important is the country of origin? Is there any ratio according to which the main line-up is divided?
A quota at the WFF?! Are you kidding? Let me quote Gilles Jacob, who, when talking about Cannes, said, “it’s a film festival, not a political one”. Our job is to choose the films we believe are the best, from whichever country they may be.
Were there any leitmotifs particular topics in the viewfinder when putting together the line-up of the 32nd edition? Aside from presenting a batch of films exploring the topic of immigrants, of course.
I cannot imagine deciding on the edition’s subject in advance, it just doesn’t work like that. We decide based on what is submitted. We have no clue what the next year will bring.
The Warsaw Film Festival has successfully entered the fourth decade of its life. Will the festival undergo any changes that might emerge during the upcoming edition?
After over twenty years of existence, the WFF developed a programming structure that has remained constant for about a decade now. We have five competitive sections – for fiction features, documentary features, and shorts (this one is Academy Awards eligible) – as well as some non-competitive ones: Special Screenings, Discoveries, Family Cinema Weekend. There are also two Polish sections: Classics from Poland and Best Polish Shorts of the year. I guess this makes the programme quite well balanced. I mean, part of the audience is looking for novelties – for them we have a number of world, international and European premieres, mostly in competitive sections. Then, there is an audience looking for films they’ve heard about before – those that premiered at Cannes, Venice, Toronto or San Sebastián. Last but not least, there are people who are just looking for proper, well-made, entertaining films. We cater for a number of various tastes.
The WFF will cast the spotlight on the coming-of-age genre and Balkan cinema this year. Why did you decide on these two strands for the 32nd edition?
It’s not we who decided, but the filmmakers, whose films we particularly liked. It’s an incredible year for Romania and Bulgaria, for example, but Croatian cinema is also very strong.
Domestic cinema forms an integral part of the WFF. How is Polish cinema faring compared to in previous years?
This year, we have Polish films premiering at Locarno, Toronto, San Sebastián, and Busan – so it’s a good year. I believe we have some aces up the sleeve.
CentEast has also entrenched itself in the structure of the WFF. Are there any novelties prepared for its 12th edition?
More of a surprise, actually. The Creative Europe MEDIA Programme has rejected our application for next year, so the 12th edition might be the last.
How is the alliance of China and Eastern Europe within the framework of the China-Eastern Europe Film Promotion Project developing?
Oh, yes. Collaboration with China is perhaps our biggest challenge, but I like it that way!
What is the Warsaw Next initiative and for whom is it intended?
It’s a training/workshop programme for young Polish filmmakers, who already have at least one short to their credit, but don’t have much international experience. And at the WFF, we have plenty of internationally acknowledged professionals who love to share their knowledge with others.