Since 2015, EFP – European Film Promotion has been introducing ten outstanding young directors along with their current films in the Future Frames section of each year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Several Film Academy Vienna students having been represented there over the past few years, and this year once again saw a film make it into the official selection: Magdalena Chmielewska presented her Max Ophüls Prize-winning film Lullaby at the festival, and she spoke with mdw Magazin about the significance of such a film festival invitation and why she’s always thinking about her next project.
Magdalena Chmielewska © Zebu Kluth

The elation was huge when the official invitation from artistic director Karel Och to participate in the Future Frames section of the 56th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) arrived, with Magdalena learning that she’d been selected as one of Europe’s ten most outstanding young film directors. “Being able to represent Austria at an A-list festival with Lullaby made me so happy. The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is one of the oldest in this category, which it occupies together with the festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, San Sebastián, Moscow, Montreal, Shanghai, and Tokyo. And in the industry, the KVIFF is viewed as the most important event in all of Central and Eastern Europe,” explains the filmmaker.

The run-up to the festival included an online preliminary programme with pitch training and industry meet-ups where Magdalena could also get to know the other directors. Then, during the festival itself in early July, European Film Promotion introduced the chosen directors and their films to the film industry, the Czech public, and the press. “Nora Goldstein, who’s responsible for programming on European Film Promotion’s end, guided us wonderfully through these four intense days.” Magdalena’s festival experience included lots of interesting encounters with the audience, intensive exchange with other filmmakers, and numerous interviews.

“A festival like this is always an exceptional situation. There’s so much going on, and you talk to so many different people. With the industry meetings being so important, I usually don’t manage to watch all that many films myself. And at the same time, I’m constantly thinking about how things should continue and what I’ll have to do next in order to be able to make my living in this profession. It’s a schizophrenic state: feeling ecstatic about this great visibility and at the same time having to in some way say farewell to a project in order to make space for something new.”

Lullaby is about Eva, a 17-year-old who’s lost her ability to sleep. When she resorts to spending her nights in nearby homes in order to watch others as they slumber, her state gradually begins to weigh upon the people in her environment just as it does on her. But as Eva wanders through the night like a ghost, she discovers an uncanny and surreal landscape that remains hidden from all those who are sleeping.

“I suffered from insomnia myself as a teenager. So I wanted to return to this energy from back then and channel it into something fictional, into the filmic medium where I now work. Eva summons all of her vital energies to keep from succumbing to the frustration that her illness brings with it. And as she attempts to help herself, she begins questioning her surroundings and her understanding of what’s normal.”

In her next project, Magdalena intends to address grieving and loss. “The focus is on the main character’s inner journey and on how she channels her grief before the backdrop of a horrible drought. At the moment, I’m looking for a co-author with whom I can continue developing this idea.”

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This autumn, in any case, Lullaby will celebrate its French and South Korean premières. And at the Seoul International Extreme-Short Image & Film Festival (SESIFF) in South Korea, Magdalena Chmielewska will also be giving her first master class. “I’m especially happy about that; I’d really like to teach directing in the future, so this will perhaps be the next step in that direction.”

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