In the middle of October I had the great pleasure to travel to the capital of Poland and attend at the 31st Warsaw Film Festival. For 10 days everything was about Cinema, with a capital C – shorts and features day and night, in the wide range of genres like experimental, thrilling dramas, documentaries and sensitive coming-of-age stories. But the purpose of my travel was not just to sit down and relax I was participating in the FIPRESCI Warsaw Critics Project, an inspiring and instructive workshop for young film journalists.

text by Janka Pozsonyi

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photo by BartekTrzeszkowski

Being present at a film festival even as a visitor has a certain vibe to it that nothing else does. The constant movement, the thrill before the lights go out, the sweeping crowd that comes out from one screening room and rushes into the next one to get a decent seat, and the necessary tiredness after seeing a great number of hidden treasures, and some shocking pieces too. And even when the film is shockingly bad, the mutual outrage towards it just brings the crowd together perfectly. I constantly look for these moments, I crave them, I’m most certainly addicted to them.

Well, these moments are doubled, nay, tripled whenever I’m involved as sort of an “insider” at a festival, and Warsaw was definitely one of these places. Attending the Critics Project made me feel like an insider, on many incredible levels. For 8 days, a small group of us “Eastern Europeans” gathered together with the leading of two great tutors and had hours of sessions on film journalism. We started from scratch by writing reviews, reports, news and profiles, learning techniques on interview-making, working on a tight schedule, jurying films, balancing with deadlines and then we received useful feedback by the end of each day. Though the days never really ended: after watching countless hours of films and trying to write everything in the limited time we had, each and every night was a new chance to meet the competing directors, producers, actors, jury members, journalists, festival directors and so on.

At the Fipresci Warsaw Critics Project / photo by BartekTrzeszkowski

At the Fipresci Warsaw Critics Project / photo by BartekTrzeszkowski

Besides writing reviews and reports, we also had opportunities to interview people of our choice. I was over the moon when I heard that Sean Baker, the director of Tangerine which was one of the biggest hits at last year’s Sundance was present at the festival, so it was pretty obvious that I wanted to sit down and have a chat with him. The madly energetic story of two transgender working girls in the sunset of LA was shot completely on an iPhone 5, introducing a whole new level of filmmaking and discussing transgender equality in an honest and yet humorous way. I also had time for a short but great interview with Rúnar Rúnarsson, one of the most acclaimed Icelandic directors of the last couple of years (Oscar-nominated for his first short film The Last Farm), who also won an award here in Warsaw with his second feature film, Sparrow.

Ten days of hard-working and easy networking, sleeping almost nothing but watching almost everything instead – this is something I’m definitely looking forward to continuing in the future. As I said, I can’t help it, I’m an addict.

Read this report in the latest World of Young Cinema: