America long discovered? Not at all. As part of the American Film Festival, we prove that discovering all states of cinema is an endless (and very pleasant) journey. Tickets and online access to all of the films from this year's festival program are available for purchase from today on.
There are as many as 88 titles to choose from – Hollywood novelties, as well as avant-garde gems. The 13th American Film Festival will be held in a hybrid model again: from November 8-13 we invite you to on-site screenings at the New Horizons Cinema in Wrocław, and you’ll have a chance for online screenings until November 20, via the New Horizons VOD platform.
Tickets and online access (including access packages) can only be purchased online. Festival ticket offices at the New Horizons Cinema will open on November 8, 9:00 a.m. The price list and all necessary information on how to purchase tickets are in our guide.
The simplest answer to the question raised in the tile ("What does the festival director recommend?") is: "everything". Yet we are aware that not everyone has 8,205 minutes to spare and watch each title from this year's AFF program. Thus, Ula Śniegowska has prepared her "golden ten", thanks to which you'll experience all the states of cinema in the most diverse way possible. The list of Ula’s Top 10 includes a classic of Robert Altman, a documentary about an outstanding US senator and an animation about a talking shell.
An animated documentary – a form that is difficult to classify in terms of genres, which is what we like most. It's actually an interview with a slightly frustrated human-speaking shell (Jenny Slate), who shares an apartment with his grandmother (Isabella Rosellini). The filmmaker joins these two, to observe their extraordinary life. A story for all ages, from the hand of the whizzes at A24.
From the rich retrospective of Altman's work, this year we look at his sarcastic vision of America: racing after fame (Nashville), with money-driven politics (also Nashville), individualistic, diverse and highly musical. We find all this in a multi-threaded piece, which is a crime novel, musical and at the same time a social satire. The most anti-American of the American-centric films of Altman, reassuring that the multiplicity of Americas in America can be best conveyed through a polyphonic narrative. Nashville is also an experiment with sound (parallel tracks) and a masterpiece script, written by almost a teenage Joan Tewksbury, whose writing skills we will introduce through a masterclass and workshops.
Staying on the topic of women in film, I recommend Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power, an unusual "documentary lecture" by Nina Menkes – this year's guest at AFF. The director, who studies marginalized women in her work, highlights how the film industry has accustomed us to the objectifying gaze of the camera. A seemingly obvious topic, but Menkes clearly shows how, from childhood and since the "beginning of film", we are shaped by sexist schemas.
In A Love Song, as befits a romance film, we have two people who share emotional tension. A woman living on the edge of society, in a camper park somewhere in southern Colorado, awaits a visit from a childhood friend, who like her is widowed. Will they be able to revive the flame they once had? A Nomadland-like scenery, a heroine whose fate does not differ far from the stories told in Jessica Bruder's reportage and musical standards from a loudspeaker. The minimalist and subtle film by debutant Max Winter-Silverman was built by astereotypical creations of Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone, Hell or High Water) and acclaimed Iroquois actor and musician Wes Studi (Dances with Wolves, The Last of the Mohicans, receiver of an Honorary Oscar in 2020). A Love Song was shown at numerous festivals, including Sundance and Berlinale.
Also dealing with love is Lover, Beloved – the effect of singer and songwriter Suzanne Vega’s fascination with writer Carson McCullers (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, The Member of the Wedding). Michael Tully (Ping-pong Summer, Don’t Leave Home) recorded a stage performance in which Vega plays the androgenic writer, struggling with various diseases and alcoholism, reinterpreting her two lectures. The performance also becomes an illustration and an addendum to Vega's album of the same title. Thanks to this hybrid piece, we get to know not only the life and texts of McCullers, who was ahead of her time, but we also see the singer in a new role.
Michał Chmielewski's Roving Woman, with Lena Góra playing the titular role, is also about a lonely woman and self-discovery in the face of extremes. The film, supported by Wim Wenders, is an expression of love for American wilderness and road cinema, and its slow pace is reminiscent of Wender’s Paris, Texas. In addition to that, we have music composed by John Hawkes, who also appears in the film.
The directorial debut of Gina Giamell and actress Riley Keough (Zola, American Honey), granddaughter of Elvis Presley, was awarded the Caméra d'Or at Cannes. A coming-of-age story, set in a Lakota nation reserve, of two Native American boys. The style of this film reminds me very much of last year's hit – Red Rocket.
Let's not miss the sensation of the Cannes festival, another great debut. Charlotte Wells – previously responsible for impressionistic shorts about the lives of British youth, debuts with Aftersun produced by Moonlight author Berry Jenkins. Aftersun has a similar dreamlike mood; it’s made of a delicate fabric of childhood memories, memories of a daughter who spends her stay in a seaside resort with a rarely seen father. And it allows us to enjoy the acting skills and the ambiguous beauty of Paul Mescal (Normal People) for 90 minutes.
Among the film portraits of unique Americans, I especially recommend Gabby Giffords Won't Back Down – a chilling story about a senator from Arizona, shot in the head by a madman during an election rally, who returns to the world of politics after a miraculous recovery. Only to fight against broad access to a weapon from which she almost died and people are killed every day. Up-to-date, scary and uplifting at the same time.
Among the more conventional fiction stories, it is worth having a look at Armageddon Time – a specific coming of age film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Gray returns to his childhood in the New York district of Queens, in the 1980s. Little Paul Graff, under the watchful eye of his intellectual grandfather (Anthony Hopkins), experiences his first artistic fascinations, his first disappointments and learns his first lessons in social hypocrisy. Although Armageddon Time is not strictly an autobiographical film, it is not difficult to see the director's alter ego in the form of a sensitive boy and interpret the film as the artist's reproach toward a capitalist society that lost itself in the pursuit of money.