The seventh edition of the American Film Festival, the only showcase of contemporary American independent films in Eastern and Central Europe, has come to an end. Audiences at Wrocław’s New Horizons Cinema saw 114 films, including 58 Polish premieres and six European premieres. With 199 screenings in total, the festival was attended by 23,776 viewers.
Festival audiences voted for the best films and the winners were announced at the closing gala on Sunday 30th of October, after screening of Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. From among the 14 feature films by independent American filmmakers that were presented as part of the Spectrum competition, viewers chose Hunky Dory by Michael Curtis Johnson, who attended the festival and collected the award personally. The director of the award-winning film – with the help of his drag queen protagonist Sidney (in a moving performance by Tomas Pais) – shows that, to be a good father, you do not need to have a perfectly ordered life, nor do you need to fit within the confines of generally accepted heterosexual norms. Ten films were screened as part of the American Docs section. According to audiences, the festival’s top documentary was Thorsten Schütte’s Eat That Question – Frank Zappa in His Own Words, a portrait of the legendary and uncompromising experimental musician made up of statements by Zappa himself from different periods of his work. The winning feature film received USD 10,000, while the winning documentary took home USD 5,000. The prize money was provided by BNY Mellon. The Indie Star Award went to the doyen of the New York avant-garde scene, Jonas Mekas.
As in the previous years, this edition of the American Film Festival presented the full spectrum of American cinema, ranging from documentaries, features, experimental movies, to works by masters and independent filmmakers. The program included: Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, Wiener-Dog by Todd Solondz, Certain omen by Kelly Reichardt, Moonlightby Barry Jenkins, The Fang Family directed by Jason Bateman, Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!, American Honey by Andrea Arnold, Swiss Army Man directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, Jeff Nichols’s Lovingand Midnight Special as well as Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea and Christineby Antonio Campos. The European premiers of films such as Jenny Carchman’s Enlighten Us: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray, Adam Pinney’s The Arbalest, Jason Grant Smith’s I Voted?, Matthew Lessner’s Automatic at Sea, Peter at the Farm by Tony Stone and Paul Taylor’s Driftwood also screened at the Wrocław’s US indie feast.
The 2016 festival included of 13 sections; because in 2016 our host city of Wrocław is the European Capital of Culture, the festival repertoire sought to highlight ties between European and American cinema. Over a dozen cult films made by European directors in the USA have been showed. They span from Sergio Leone, to Werner Herzog, Bruno Dumont, to Lars von Trier, Agnès Varda and Wim Wenders. The connection between New and Old Continent has also been emphasized by this year’s retrospective devoted to the European films of the genius director and actor Orson Welles.
Festival’s special guests, who conducted master classes in cinema for festival audiences, included directors Percy Adlon and Agnès Varda as well as Orson Welles’ film editor, Frederik Muller. Filmmakers that projects were competing for the Audience Awards in both – Spectrum and American Docs, also met audiences in Wrocław: director Chad Hartigan (Morris From America), director Justin Tipping (Kicks), director Elisabeth Subrin (A Woman, A Part) and director Gina Abatemarco (Kivalina) as well as others industry representatives: producer Joshua Astrachan (Paterson, Kicks, Louder Than Bombs) and one of the co-founders of the SXSW Festival in Austin, producer and director Louis Black (Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny, Tower).