Being at Zubroffka in Bialystok, Poland is exciting, fun with a big doze of party buzz. Oh, and it’s also extremely cold.
So were the films, but in a good way. Zubroffka programs consists mainly of arthouse dramas with that unique Eastern tone we all now from Eastern/Central European territories and that is of course mainly true about the Eastward Window competition. Two fantastic short films dominated the selection, both of them were the long types of shorts, above 25 minutes. Jump, a strange love story dipped into some black humor fun and the very serious PRIDE, which tells a story of a grandfather who finds out that his grandson is gay. And oh boy, some grandfathers and not good at coping with those kinds of things. A harsh, very real story about generation gaps and how modern families evolve.
Lisa, Go Home is an Estonian/Lithuanian co-production about a beautiful little girl who feels just a bit lost in her world of lower middle class guardians of her. There are so problems with the narrative, sometimes things are over complicated and then over simplified. But those innocent eyes of Lisa doesn’t let you to not like this short. And then there was of course “To Guard a Mountain” a story of two teenage brothers in the hills of Macedonia and their strange encounters with some locals and heavy lighting storms, a short which reminds you that there aren’t much more beautiful things in life than brotherhood and unconditional love. (Oh, and have you ever heard of MS Estonia? Anyway, watch Emergency Calls, the best experimental film this year and be shocked. It’s by the great Finnish duo Hannes Vartiainen and Pekka Veikkolainen)
Zubroffka featured lots of shorts with lots of sex in them. “This year, lots of the better films we received had sex in them”- said programmer Marcin Luczaj. Talk about Memory of Last Summer in the National Competition of Independents, a short erotic film set in 80’s Warsaw. Need I need to say more? Oh, I need to. Like Reckless, a reckless film from Norway, featuring a three some and a possibly dead kid. Now, I don’t need to say more, only that it was one of the best films at Zubroffka. It was also heartwarming to see Easter Crumble, one of the best written shorts of the year to walk away with the infamous pillow prize, but no one should ignore Elevation, an Israeli film that has a twist which makes you smile. Not for the moment when you see it, but every time when you think about this short, for the rest of your life.
The above mentioned PRIDE and the film Jump, both from Bulgaria were also awarded at Zubroffka. Take a look at Toma Waszarow, programmer of the Bulgarian shorts section at Zubroffka being happy with films he represents. To check out all the winners at Zubroffka, click here.
Midnight Shorts with a huge penis fighting was surprising and shocking to see, but seeing Martin Rath taking home the best student film and Mass of Men eventually winning the Grand Prix was no surprise.
While Zubroffka is not an industry festival, there were quite some festivals present, like from 2Annas Film Festival in Riga, Message2Man in Russia, Cinéast in Luxembourg along with some Polish organizations, so there had to be some kind of round table discussion or panel where we could discuss the current state of the business. How will festivals function in the world of online content and aren’t they going to kill each other? Daazo.com – World of Shorts contributed to the argument that online content and film festivals won’t interfere, because they are great at exchanging “ammunition”. Festivals have a particular atmosphere, where you get to experience interpersonal communication with people who have the same interests as you, this way it’s much easier to talk about business and also making friendships with people you work with. Festivals will always have the newest films, they offer a great competition for new talents to participate in and a curated program, while online media has the chance to give you things like Zubroffka Classics on Daazo, which is definitely the greatest thing that ever happened to shorts that previously won an award at Zubroffka.
Festival parties took place at Fama, in the same building as the main Kino Forum. While it’s not true about most film festivals, the musical programme was just as well curated as the films. There was an electronic night with foreign DJ’s, then a” rapping to dubstep” (KANYE IS EVERYWHERE) night with Estonian rapper Tommy €a$h, some Africana with the legendary Mad Professor. Son of Kick also was live on stage and Zubroffka hosted a great reggae night. There was something in the air that night. You can truly say, it was a small music festival as well. This is certainly the way to go, when you want to aim to be a multi-art festival, like SXSW.
The festival volunteers, the staff, etc. love it when its snows. It gives them the Zubroffka spirit, which is indeed great especially if its topped town with some bison grass vodka, but snowing isn’t that fun when you leave a concert after 3 am in the morning.
This film festival has the potential to be one of the best short film festivals in its region and this years programme, events and atmosphere was an indicator that this just might be the next step for Zubroffka. Let’s go!