Polish film comes back to Roncesvalles.
A relative newcomer to the Toronto’s packed fall-festival schedule, the Ekran Toronto Polish Film Festival is dedicated to spotlighting Poland’s most promising emerging filmmakers. Now in its fourth year, the festival’s 2012 edition runs from October 25 to October 28, with Roncevalles’ storied Revue Cinema once again serving as the principal screening venue. In addition to 13 feature selections, this year’s festival also boasts a sidebar series of free screenings hosted by the Runnymede Library, including programs dedicated to shorts, digital animation, and a retrospective honouring the late Michal Maryniarczyk, who was a former collaborator of Krzysztof Kieślowski and a pioneering figure within Toronto’s Polish film community.
Following this evening’s gala presentation of Barbara Białowąs’s Big Love (October 25, 7 p.m.) at Innis Town Hall, Ekran 2012 begins in earnest on Friday, with screenings of Jan Komasa’s angsty teen drama The Suicide Room (October 26, 7 p.m.), and Anca Damian’s bold animated documentary, Crulic: The Path To Beyond (October 26, 9:30 p.m.). Employing a striking combination of hand-drawn, collage, stop-motion, and cutout animation, Damian relates the tragic story of Claudio Crulic, a Romanian migrant wrongfully imprisoned in Poland, who subsequently succumbed to the effects of five months of self-imposed starvation. In a bid to restore a voice to man who was, ultimately, a victim of scandalous bureaucratic indifference, Crulic employs posthumous narration by an actor portraying Crulic himself, and recounts details of his upbringing and all-too-brief life (he was just 33 when he died in 2008). While miscarriages of justice frequently serve as inspiration to documentary filmmakers, Crulic, uniquely, is as intimate and as innovative as it is infuriating.
Writer-director Przemysław Wojcieszek is concerned with injustice of a different kind in The Secret (October 27, 9 p.m.), our pick among Ekran’s Saturday night screenings. In exploring the complex legacy of the crimes committed against Poland’s Jews during the Second World War, Wojciesnek’s sixth feature addresses familiar subject matter, but does so in fractured, frenetic, and invigoratingly experimental form. Foregoing a traditional narrative structure, The Secret presents a series of enigmatic exchanges between performance artist Kwasery (Tomasz Tyndyk), his agent Karolina (Agnieszka Podsiadlik), and his beloved grandfather, Jan (Marek Kępiński), whom Karolina insists is implicated in the wartime disappearance of a Jewish family. Wojcieszek’s sparing dialogue and spasmodic editing suggest the powerful undercurrents of a suppressed truth, while Tyndyk, in particular, is excellent as a figure torn between his conflicting allegiances.
The prolific Tyndyk also appears in Sunday evening’s In the Bedroom (October 28, 6:30 p.m.), though here it’s actress Katarzyna Herman who provides the impressive central performance. Herman plays the coolly manipulative, middle-aged Ewa, who responds to online ads seeking casual encounters and then sedates her would-be paramours. While she sometimes steals their money, she’s just as likely to help herself to a hot bath and a warm meal; beneath her poised facade, she’s a penniless, car-dwelling transient—though debut writer-director Tomasz Wasilewski initially declines to spell out her desperate circumstances. It’s not until she encounters Tyndyk’s disarming Patryk that her secretive veneer begins to crack. Even as the pair starts to forge a tentative connection, however, Wasliewski’s psychological drama remains intriguingly understated.
Following In the Bedroom is Ekran’s memorably bizarre closing selection, The Fourth Dimension (October 28, 9 p.m.), a three-part, Vice Films-backed, Dogme 95-style collaboration between American director Harmony Korine, Russian director Alexey Fedorchenko, and Poland’s Jan Kwiecinski. Korine’s segment, which is anything but understated, stars Val Kilmer as a deranged, autotune-aided motivational speaker (called Val Kilmer), while Fedorchenko’s contribution concerns a scientist obsessed with time travel. Kwiecinski directs a segment called “Fawns,” in which a quartet of hipsters (led by none other than Tomasz Tyndyk) prepare for the impending apocalypse with an anarchic romp through a deserted village that turns out to be less deserted than they’d assumed.