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NESCAFE to Sponsor Warsaw Film Festival inside of Stalin's Wedding Cake

NESCAFE is kind of a magic word in Poland where all during the gray Communist daze it meant "Real coffee from the West" at a time when anything from The West was labeled as "decadent" by the nauseating Red Regime. Since the "regime changes" of 1989 the Swiss Company has established itself bigtime in Poland with all kinds of other consumer items, not just coffee, and is now raising its corporate profile to new heights by sponsoring the Warsaw Film Festival, a festival that has been coming on like Gang Busters lately, at least in the part of Europe once known as "the Soviet bloc". In fact the headline on the festival article in the current issue of the leading Polish film magazine, FILM, reads; "Who Will Win the NESCAFE Grand Prix?". So much for corporate sponsorship. Warsaw is actually the only "city festival" in Eastern Europe although there is a much smaller similar enterprise in Budapest that does not call itself the "Budapest film festival". Most other film festivals in the former Soviet bloc -- and there are plenty of them -- tend to be niche festivals with narrow fucuses, whereas Warsaw has emerged as a true international festival after quite a few years of seaching about for an image. This year there will even be a film market primarily established to promote the interchage of films in the eastern territories as well as opening possible marketing doors to the west. The idea is to make this THE film market for Eastern Europe.

Among highlights on tap: (1) The opening film will be Andrzej Jakimowski's "Stuczki" (tricks) which won the Grand Prize at the Polish film week in Gdynia just two weeks ago and also picked up a couple of lesser prizes in Venice back in early September. Jakimowski is being tabbed as the leading light of the new wave of younger Polish directors. (2) Special Screening; "Pora Umierac" ("Time to Die") the Dorota Kedzerzawska film for which 92 year old actress Danuta Szaflarska was awarded the Best Actress of the year prize at Gdynia, (3) Closing Film, Jerzy stuhr's "Korowod" ("Snake Dance") for which he won the Best scenario prize in Gdynia. (4)
"Room of Fast Dates", in the short film competition section. The purpose here is, of course, to give the general Polish audience a first glimpse at films which have been much discussed already, but will not be released until later in the year.

The festival organizers say that following current festival trends they have decided to establish Four different competition categories, to wit: (1) The international competition "New Films by New Directors", for the NESCAFE Grand Prize,(2) the Warsaw feature film competition, (3) the "Free Spirit" competition, and (4) Competition for feature legth documentaries. In addition a FIPRESCI jury will bestow an award on the Best Debut film from Eastern or Central Europe. Non-competition sections will include, "The Master's Touch", "German Panorama", and "Premiers of the Season 2007/2008". The Central and East European Market specializng in films from the region, will be held from October 17 to 31.

The principal venue for screenings will be, as usual, the Palace of Culture in central Warsaw, often referred to wryly by locals as "Stalin's Wedding Cake". The buildng made of somber brown stone with several setbacks culminating in a slender clock tower which can be seen for miles around was "given" to Poland after the war by Stalin, and is a near replica of similar buildings in Moscow at the Lomonosow University there. After the fall of Communism here in 1989 there was some agitation to have the building demolished as a "Communist eyesore', howver, since it is a truly remarkable piece of Architecture, more sober voices prevailed and so it remains as the most outstanding landmark of the city. It used to house mostly Communist ministeries and a few sober theaters on the ground floors. Today it is a venue not only for a cluster of cinemas, but also for rock concerts and all kinds of other 'decadent' Westerrn phenomena -- If Joe Stalin could see the use his Palace of (Soviet) culture is being put to today, he would probably order it blown up imediately along with everybody inside. In any case, a most unusual building in which to hold a highly capitalistic film festival.

by Alex Deleon, for
October 5, 2007

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