Eastern European film festival launches in Birmingham

Monika Martyniuk, who made the film program, welcomes everyone on opening night

This post was originally published on Birmingham Eastside.
Until the end of October, Centrala Gallery in Digbeth will be home to Behind the Curtain, a film festival bringing eastern European cinema to Brummie cinefiles.

Currently at its 5th edition, the festival will be screening films from ten different countries:

  • Poland
  • The Czech Republic
  • Slovakia
  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Estonia
  • Hungary
  • Romania
  • Bulgaria
  • Russia

Organised by the Polish Expats Association, the festival will also feature short films and new media from a variety of artists.

Short films on opening night

Monika Martyniuk, who made the film program, welcomes everyone on opening night
Monika Martyniuk, who made the film program, welcomes everyone on opening night
Antonisz's experimental animation displayed on old tube screens.
Antonisz’s experimental animation displayed on old tube screens.

The festival opened on the Friday night at Centrala. Attendees were greeted with beverages and snacks to see the new media exhibition.

On display was the work of Julian Antonisz, a Polish artist who invented a technique called non-camera. It involves painting or scratching images directly onto movie tape. According to him it is the only way films can be called “authentic works of visual, painting, graphic and musical art.”  The result is made with humor in mind and is undoubtedly unique in appearance.

Several of his short films were projected and were accompanied by a strangely-satirical voice telling weird stories about communism and mundane life. It was hard not to laugh in many instances, especially for the mainly-Polish audience.

These films, along with the feature films to be screened through the festival were chosen by Polish film student Monika Martyniuk.

Monika Martyniuk is 24 and chose the films to be screened
Monika Martyniuk is 24 and chose the films to be screened

A student of the University of Warsaw, Monika has had a passion for cinema from an early age and wanted to follow this dream. She put together a list of representative films from each of the ten countries. It was mostly films she had seen already but also that would be easy to understand by anyone not familiar with The Iron Curtain.

“It was a big challenge. I had gone before to many festivals, Cannes, Venice, Berlin; I had a press accreditation and wrote reviews and interviews.

“Now I get to look at the festival from the other side, as an organizer.” says Monika.

Her personal recommendation is the Estonian film, “In the crosswind”, to be screened tomorrow, 21 October.

Audio visual improvised performance

This was a collaboration by two artists: visual artist Maciej Piatek and Tim Benjamin who won a Young Composer Award from the BBC.

According to Maciej, the performance was an absolute improvisation, the first one he has done. Using work samples from recent months, he created an hour-long film on the fly by listening to Tim Benjamin’s eerie ambient sounds.

Adding to the previous animations, the collaboration created an almost psychedelic experience for viewers.
Adding to the previous animations, the collaboration created an almost psychedelic experience for viewers.

According to Alicja Kaczmarek, director of the Polish Expats Association, the first three editions of the festival were oriented towards the Polish community but that changed as a decision to expand and show the work of other eastern European cultures. She promises a high quality experience for anyone coming to see these screenings.

The festival will end on the 31st of October. Entry is free and you can see programme here.

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