10 things to see at the 19th New Horizons International Film Festival

Poland’s biggest film festival kicks off its 19th edition on 25 July. We picked out some highlights from the programme.

Matthew Thrift

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

One of the largest film festivals in eastern Europe, New Horizons returns to the city of Wrocław, Poland this month for its 19th edition. With over 600 screenings across its 11 days, audiences will have the chance to see highlights from the Cannes, Berlin and Locarno film festivals, as well as numerous local premieres.

With inexpensive flights readily available from the UK and mainland Europe, it’s a great opportunity to catch recent festival premieres long before their UK debuts, without the endless queues you’d find at the likes of Cannes.

With an extensive series of retrospectives playing alongside the various strands, it’d be impossible to take in the programme in its entirety. In fact, you could spend a week feeding a five-films-a-day diet solely with older films from the retrospective strands. The new Sátántangó (1994) restoration is a day’s viewing on its own, and that’s before we even mention La Flor (2018).

We’ll be at New Horizons for its duration, reporting back on some of the best films we see. In the meantime, with the programme just announced, here’s a look at some of the highlights from the 2019 edition.

Opening film: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Word on the street before the closing ceremony was that the latest from French filmmaker Céline Sciamma was going to take the top prize at this year’s Cannes film festival. It wasn’t to be, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire had to settle for Best Screenplay (along with the Queer Palm). Robbed or not, it remains one of the hottest attractions for the year ahead, and takes the opening night slot at New Horizons on 25 July. A love story between a painter (Noémie Merlant) and her subject (Adèle Haenel) in 18th-century Brittany, by almost every account it’s as formally adventurous as it is emotionally devastating.

Closing film: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)

Destined to be the hottest ticket wherever it plays this summer, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood sees Quentin Tarantino return, and then some, for his ninth picture. The word from Cannes, at least from those who managed to fight their way into the screening, is that it’s his most enjoyable picture in years, centring on a star (Leonardo DiCaprio) whose best days are behind him, and his stunt double, played by Brad Pitt. A 90s dream team pairing, but it wouldn’t be a Tarantino picture without a healthy dose of controversy following in its wake. With Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, Rafal Zawierucha as Roman Polanski and Damon Herriman as Charles Manson, it’s not hard to guess where this one is heading.

Masters

Little Joe (2019)

Little Joe (2019)

Always one of the most exciting strands at the festival, Masters rounds up the latest from some of the best filmmakers working today. Fresh from Cannes, there’s Jessica Hausner’s eco-thriller Little Joe, Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Bacurau, Abel Ferrara’s Tommaso and Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Whistlers, while from further afield Your Face is an unmissable experiment in form and portraiture from Taiwanese master Tsai Ming-liang. With no UK release date in sight, a screening of Harmony Korine’s stoner comedy The Beach Bum might just be your only chance to catch it on the big screen this year.

Discoveries

Present.Perfect. (2019)

Present.Perfect. (2019)

Away from the heavy-hitters and known commodities of the Masters strand, Discoveries speaks for itself. Some two dozen films are playing this year, from almost as many countries. Of those we’ve seen already, Brian Welsh’s Beats, which charts the highs and lows of the Scottish rave scene, suitably bangs, while Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms saw some great notices at Edinburgh last month. Otherwise, Shengze Zhu’s Present.Perfect. is very much on our radar, as is The Lodge, the latest from the Austrian duo behind 2014’s oedipal horror Goodnight Mommy.

Galas

Parasite (2019)

Parasite (2019)

A chance to see some of the most anticipated films in the upcoming release calendar, the Galas strand boasts the latest films from some of the biggest names in world cinema. Leading the charge is Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or winner, Parasite, alongside other contenders for Cannes’ top prize, including the Dardennes brothers’ Young Ahmed, Xavier Dolan’s Matthias and Maxime and Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory. New pictures from the likes of François Ozon, Marco Bellocchio and Agnieszka Holland join the line-up, but we’re most looking forward to Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir. We’ve seen it twice already, but it’s just that good.

Olivier Assayas

Irma Vep (1996)

Irma Vep (1996)

New Horizons is famous for its astonishing – and astonishingly thorough – retrospectives, and this year proves no exception. The most high-profile belongs to French maestro Olivier Assayas, whose CV gets (as far as we can tell) a complete outing. If you’re only familiar with the likes of Irma Vep (1996) and Personal Shopper (2016), here’s a chance to see some of his terrific earlier works on the big screen. Cold Water (1994) is one of the best films of the 90s, while Demonlover (2002) proves a provocative thematic cousin to David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983). Rarities like A New Life (1993) and HHH: A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-hsien (1997) are at the top of our to-see list.

Albert Serra

Liberté (2019)

Liberté (2019)

Albert Serra’s The Death of Louis XIV was one of the highlights of the 2016 edition of New Horizons. Not only is the Catalan master back with new film Liberté, but he’s bringing his entire back catalogue to the festival for a complete retrospective. Word on the new one is sensational, but we’re just as excited for the rare opportunity to catch the likes of Birdsong (2008), Honour of the Knights (Quixotic) (2006) and The Lord Worked Wonders in Me (2011) on the festival’s super-sized screens.

Zuławski v. Zuławski

Bird Talk (2019)

Bird Talk (2019)

The great Polish filmmaker Andrzej Zuławski died in 2016, but his son Xawery is keeping the family business going. With a number of TV credits and a couple of features already under his belt, his latest, Bird Talk, gets the full gala treatment at this year’s festival. Not ones to miss a trick, New Horizons are also screening Zuławski junior’s previous feature, Snow White and Russian Red (2009), alongside a trio of his father’s most celebrated films. Eighteenth century serial-killer flick The Devil (1972) plays alongside his immortal Possession (1981), but it’s the chance to see his stunning L’important c’est d’aimer (1975) that has our pulses racing.

Focus on Argentina

La Flor (2018)

La Flor (2018)

At the heart of this year’s strand on the cinema of Argentina lies an opportunity to see Mariano Llinás’s monumental epic La Flor. You won’t get much change from 14 hours across its three parts, but if reports from last year’s Locarno and London Film Festival are to be believed, you’ll be rewarded with one of the cinematic events of the year. Elsewhere, the strand has a mini-retrospective dedicated to Albertina Carri, whose latest, The Daughters of Fire (2018), about a group of women on a boundary-testing, polyamorous road-trip, looks set to be a feminist riot.

Shuji Terayama

Butterfly Dress Pledge (1974)

Butterfly Dress Pledge (1974)

A leading figure of the Japanese avant garde, it’s impossible to separate the cinema of Shuji Terayama from his theatre work. His was a total art, breaking boundaries of both stage and screen. Best known for his feature-length, semi-autobiographical films like Pastoral: To Die in the Country (1974), nominated for the Palme d’Or, and the multi-award winning Farewell to the Ark (1984), Terayama’s retrospective at New Horizons combines his shorter films with live performances and a feature programme that includes his essential political provocation Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets (1971).

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