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The best Polish festivals

Posted by Damian Novitzky on 27/10/2019
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Usually, holidays are the most entertaining months of the year. Music, film and literary festivals are just waiting for us to get lost in their vibrant offerings. It’s hard to grasp all the events in Poland. That’s why we prepared a small guide for everyone who is looking for the biggest and most exciting festivals that deserve your attention!

Gdynia Film Festival (Festiwal Filmów Fabularnych)

If you are interested in the best Polish films, there is one place where you can find all the best. Initiated in 1974, it’s the oldest film festival in Poland. Firstly held in Gdańsk, now held in Gdynia is known as Gdynia Film Festival. Festival takes place every year, where Polish feature films created during the year since the previous edition of the Festival are presented. The main prize of the Festival is “Golden Lions”. It is often the case that the most popular films at the Gdynia festival, later on, receive the status of a Polish candidate for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category. This is only a foretaste of the quality and level represented by this event. So if you are a film buff, GFF is a great place to go deeper into Polish cinematic culture. It usually takes place in one week of September.

Warsaw Film Festival (Warszawski Międzynarodowy Festiwal Filmowy)

WFF is an annual film festival which takes place at the beginning of October in Warsaw. It presents new films of world, European and Polish cinema. During the Festival there is a referendum of the audience. It is a tradition of the WIFF that winning films, which did not have a Polish distributor before the Festival, find it and are screened in Polish cinemas. Existing since 1985, the Warsaw Film Festival entered the elite group of events, next to such festivals like Cannes, Venice or Berlin. The WFF differs from other festivals in its programme. The creators make every effort to ensure that the viewers have access to the latest and most exciting films as soon as possible. All for the viewers, so they could observe the latest trends in world cinema. WFF audiences – usually the first in Poland – could once see American independent cinema, Asian, Latin American, Iranian, Russian, Romanian cinema etc. The most significant advantage of the WFF is that it shows the film before it receives an Oscar and leads to a meeting with the director’s Warsaw audience before it wins an award in Cannes. One of the biggest successes of the Festival is the mention of The Hollywood Reporter, where it was written that “it’s a party to be at”. Simply put – you cannot miss it.

Open’er Festival

The second most prominent and most popular Festival in Poland, where the biggest stars appear every year, not only to perform on stage. This real celebration of music lasts four days and takes place at the beginning of July. On the big stage, there are icons of music such as Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers or Taylor Swift, but also the most exciting debutants. Open’er always attracts a lot of stars and celebrities who love to come to the Festival and show off in their sophisticated festival hairstyles. The Festival, which since its second edition in 2003 has been held in Gdynia, is not only great concerts but also a whole town full of various attractions. Apart from the zone with the best food trucks, we will also find the Fashion zone, where you will be able to admire fashion shows, cinema, theatre and even art galleries. Great fun, unforgettable impressions, and a review of super exciting fusions of culture from Poland and the world. Aren’t you interested enough?

Orange Warsaw Festival

OW is most often presented as a festival that “starts” summer season of music events in Poland. It usually takes place at the turn of May and June in Warsaw and lasts for the whole weekend. For several years now, it has been said that it is one of the best music events in Poland. Every year it’s attended by a lot of world-class artists of popular music. Apart from the idols of younger generations such as Rita Ora or Years & Years, the Orange Warsaw Festival stage also includes well-known stars of the music of many genres, such as Moby, Jamiroquai, Ms Lauryn Hill, Cypress Hill and others. Also, the Festival is celebrated with performances by ambitious Polish musicians. If you are interested in doing full strike of top festivals, Orange Warsaw is a perfect place to start!

IFF New Horizons (Festiwal Nowe Horyzonty)

Bold artistic cinema is doing well in Poland. Among other things, thanks to the “New Horizons” International Film Festival, which has been organized for almost 20 years. Every year, ambitious films by uncompromising artists are presented. Every year, the Festival is visited by several dozen directors from all over the world – from debutantes to undisputed masters. The event also features works of hard-to-reach and niche productions by aspiring artists, as well as classics of cinema. Since 2001 New Horizons become one of the biggest and most popular film festivals in Poland. It’s also accredited by FIAPF with an “avant-garde” specialized competitive status.

The main goal of the Festival is to present artistic, unconventional and uncompromising cinema. The programme is vibrant, and each year you can freely choose from titles appreciated by audiences and critics of the largest film festivals in the world. The programme is designed for viewers who are demanding and looking for new experiences in art, expecting their own, original language from the creators. New Horizons takes place every year at the end of July in Wrocław.

OFF Festival

This is probably one of the most atmospheric festivals in Poland. OFF Festival is dedicated to the broadly understood alternative music and every year invites world-famous stars to the capital of Silesia – Katowice. During the previous editions, amateurs of energetic music had the opportunity to take part in concerts of such artists as M.I.A., Foals, Electric Wizard or Aurora. The demand for more demanding music has to be growing because OFF has been an enormous success, and its importance is continuously increasing. Every year, the line-up is encouraging. On several stages, you will be able to listen to a whole range of artists, from electronics to heavy metal. The Festival lasts three days and usually takes place in early August.

Conrad Festival

Where else than in the magical and artistic Krakow, to organize the most famous literary Festival in Poland currently? Every year the Conrad Festival hosts artists from all over the world connected not only with literature but also with film, theatre, music and visual arts. Unlike other Polish events focusing on Polish literature, Conrad is conceived as an event on an international scale. The festival guests are artists from different countries, writing in different languages, representing different cultures and world views. The organizers wanted to create a multicoloured artistic mosaic, which will be able to illustrate the richness of world literature, bringing the readers closer to the previously unknown areas of thought and sensitivity. The main idea is to create an event with the broadest possible range and widely recognized in the world. The annual Book Fair in Krakow is a permanent accompanying event of the Festival. “Conrad” usually takes place at the end of October and lasts almost a whole week. Even if you are overwhelmed with work and duties, you will manage to come by at least for a day and participate in the exchange of thoughts of international culture.

MiedziankaFest

The story is true even though it sounds like a movie story. It started when in 2011 the whole Poland heard about Filip Springer’s debut book “Miedzianka. History of Disappearance”. The reporter described the history of a town in Lower Silesia, which fell into the ground. Literally! Where once there was a network of buildings, today there are meadows. After a few years, the same reporter returned to Miedzianka to organize a literary festival there. This year, precisely on the last weekend of August, the third edition of the event took place.

The Festival’s strongest point is its demanding programme. The organizers, together with the artists and the audience, look at the literary borders, where reportage is no longer just a record of facts. Still, a fiction takes on the appearance of a documentary. The beginning of considerations is the place where the reader gets confused and starts to wonder: what is the truth and what is inventing? Together they all discover that it is precisely in this hesitation, in this uncertainty, that there is an additional power of literature. If that isn’t trippy enough for you, let me tell you that most of the lectures and meetings take place on meadows, clearings, church and tourist paths. I dare you – just go there and lose yourself.

Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival (Festiwal Szekspirowski)

The Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival is the leading event of its kind in Europe. Its history dates back to 1993 when for the first time the “Gdańsk Shakespeare Days” were held. GFS became the initiator of the European Network of Shakespeare Festivals, which includes Shakespeare Festivals from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Czech Republic and Armenia. All this makes the Gdańsk festival one of the most significant theatre events in Europe. GFS has an international reach and combines presentations of performances from all over the world with artistic activities, workshops, meetings with artists.

The programme presents works of contemporary playwrights by Shakespeare and contemporary playwrights referring to Shakespeare’s works. The most exciting proposition is “ShakespeareOFF” events, combining various forms of artistic expression inspired by the work of Shakespeare. The best examples are monodramas, street theatre, performance, concerts, stand-ups, dance, happenings, and others. The best performance is awarded the Golden Yorick Award. The Festival takes place every year in Gdańsk, at the turn of July and August.

Spring Break Showcase Festival & Conference

Enea Spring Break Showcase Festival & Conference is a pioneering event on the Polish market. A game where concerts of promising young bands will be accompanied by workshops and panels for participants! The event, lasting three days, is to serve the presentation of young groups, both to the audience and influential people from the music community. The first edition of the event took place in 2014. The innovative formula of the Festival also deserves to be appreciated.

In contrast to “traditional” festivals taking place on the festival field, Spring Break dzieje in the very city of Poznan! During the record-breaking fourth edition in 2018, more than a hundred performers performed in 13 clubs. The most massive stage of the Festival is located on Wolności Square, which is in the heart of Poznań. If you’re looking for cutting-edge musical experiences and groundbreaking, alternative artists Spring Break should definitely be on your list.

Pol’and’Rock Festival

Only two years ago the “Pol’  and rock” festival changed its official name from “Woodstock Festival”. The reference to the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969 is not only not accidental, but also purposeful. Today’s Pol’ans’Rock cultivates the ideas of community, openness and iconic “peace, love & rock’n’roll”. Lasting for almost 30 years, the Festival is the largest open-air music event in Poland, but also one of the largest in the world. Every year at the turn of July and August, over half a million people come to Kostrzyn nad Odrą, where they celebrate for three days with energetic and positive music.

The Festival has been held since 1995. Since its 11th edition, the promoters are promoting Festival as “the biggest open-air festival in Europe”. In 2014 Pol’  and rock (back then Woodstock Festival Poland) gathered a record-breaking audience of over 750,000 people. So without exaggeration, we can write – if you want to be a part of something truly bigger than life, book a few days at the turn of July and August.

This post is also available in: Русский (Russian) Ukrainian (Ukrainian)

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