The 2nd Annual American Film Festival was held Nov 15th - 20th in Wroclaw Poland. Wroclaw was a German town before WWII and even though most of the buildings were destroyed during the war it was rebuilt to look like it did before the war and still retains its German architecture and charm. AFF is the sister festival to the New Horizons International Film Festival that also takes place annually in Wroclaw in July and is in its 11th year.
Opening night featured Todd Solondz’s ‘Dark Horse’. Todd was scheduled to attend but due to the weather his flight was delayed and he did not arrive until the next day. AFF showed his almost complete retrospective (His first feature film ‘Fear, Anxiety & Depression’ is not available for public viewing.) Todd was available for Q&A sessions after most of his screening and I caught a few of them. His Q&As are very honest and gave me some excellent insight on this very accomplished filmmaker.
I really enjoyed getting to know Clay Jeter (Jess + Moss) and Matthew Lessner (The Woods) and hearing about there year since premiering their feature films at Sundance last January. Clay is the first filmmaker I have met that did not have a previous film in Sundance or any influential contacts to help him get in. He just made an interesting film and went through the standard submission process. Its is also interesting both CLay & Matthew are planning future projects but neither have sold their films for big money or been chased after by investors interested in financing their next films.
The festival also featured a new program called ‘Gotham in Progress’. The organizers selected 11 American films and screened rough cuts to European industry professionals with the goal to match European Sales agents and Finishing Houses with the American Filmmakers to provide funding to finish sound mastering, music rights, titles, color correction etc. I was able to sit on on several of the screenings. I am not allowed to write about them but I pretty much guarantee you will be hearing about them as they make their way through the festival circuit over the next year. A list of the films is available here- http://www.blackrabbitfilm.com/gotham-in-progress/2011-selection/. Next year they are planning on doing it again. If you have a film that can use the finishing funds it is well worth submitting (this year there was no submission fee).
The awards for best Narrative & Best Documentary were selected by the audience. 'Somewhere Tonight' Directed by Michael Di Jiacomo and featuring John Turturro won a $10,000 prize for Best Narrative. The film was made as a tribute to Director Theo Van Gogh and for a film where the two main characters never meet in person is able to keep the audience’s attention with its deep character development. ’Sing Your Song’ Directed by Susanne Rostock won the award for Best Documentary and a $5000.00 prize. The films is about the political and social activism of Harry Belafonte. The same day Susanne also received word the film had been short listed for the Academy Award.
My highlight was being able to be a part of the World Premiere for Joe Swanberg’s ‘Caitlin Plays Herself’. I was able to conduct the Q&A for the second showing of the film with Joe & Caitlin. The festival features a Retrospect of 10 of his films. Joe did Q&As for most of his screenings and he does some of the most entertaining Q&As I have ever seen. Joe will be teaching a Masterclass at the Northwest Film Forum on January 11th that I highly recommend http://nwfilmforum.org/live/page/workshops/85