Monday, 12 September 2011

Quest Europe 2011 - A look back



So that was that! My first Polish Film Festival, and the very first time I was a jury member. A strange experience, daunting, but a lot of fun. It was humbling as well. So many great films, so many people who really have made a career in the film industry, and I was there amongst them. And I learnt a lot to. I am a little bit wiser about the world of film making, I am a bit more knowledgeable in Polish and I am a bit more knowledgeable about myself too. I think that last one is what surprised me the most.

But back to Quest Europe. First the films - what a fantastic range of movies. Let us be blunt, I was never a big fan of Zielona Gora when I visited it back in January this year. But it is a different city in the summer - a really beautiful place. I pin my initial view of ZG on the fact that it is basically unflattering in the winter weather, and to put it simply, the cold weather and myself do not go together.

(Of course, I have plenty of tales to tell from my Central European travels this year, but back to the festival - Quest Europe 2011!)

Yes those films. Some amazing pieces I was privileged to view, and not just the competition entries where I was given the difficult decision of deciding which one was the best (really the competition was close this year). I also saw some of the 'best of films' from La Boco Del Lobo Film Festival (Spain), the Alter-Native Film Festival (Romania) and the Chicago Film Festival (USA).

But of the competition pieces, my own favourites were a documentary on artistic refugees from Belarus, the Polish 'Bridget Jones', a heartfelt story about a bee keeper, a documentary about the elderly, and finally wonderful fairy tale from Armenia - an allegory for modern life, which in the end won the competition or Best Film. And deservedly so.



(Yes, that's me making a speech. They should have not let me at the mic, as I love to talk! The translator, to put it nicely, got stressed out with the amount she had to translate...more pics here)

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Quest Europe 2011 is a month long festival held all over the Lubuska region of Poland, but its centre is Zielona Gora. For the final three days, the wonderfully rustic Nysa Cinema in the city centre is transformed into an artistic hub. A real piece of architectural heritage in a town which is not the prettiest in Poland (thank goodness this is not reflected in the beauty of the residents)



And what is achieved is amazing! Zielona Gora is a small town (the Polish call it a city, I call it a town, the Indians would refer to it as a village) but its cultural output is high. I do not know why. Maybe it is a reaction against the dour Communist times, maybe it is a reflection of the energy exhibited of Poles of my generation (compare that to us lackluster Brits) or maybe the people of this part of Poland really appreciate culture, always have.

It is even more surprising when you realise just how tightly knit the organisation is. With limited resources, they pull off a Cinematic feat that happens to be one of the best I have visited. As a film maker, there is no such thing as a bad festival, but I was really impressed with Quest Europe. It really was a celebration of film. And apart from meeting with an 'interesting' film maker, I really did enjoy myself here at Quest. A wonderful experience, a great time and fantastic films. What more can I ask for? Will I be back next year. I hope so!!!

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