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In April 2017 CROSSING EUROPE will be the first film festival to present a complete retrospective of the film work by the Polish artist couple Anka and Wilhelm Sasnal, which will open with their current feature film SŁOŃCE, TO SŁOŃCE MNIE OŚLEPIŁO / THE SUN, THE SUN BLINDED ME (PL, CH 2016).

The film premiered at the renowned film festival in Locarno and received high praise from critics for its political topicality and artistic quality. The two TRIBUTE guests are no strangers to the festival audience in Linz, as they have already been represented in the festival program twice in the past. In 2012 they won the main prize with Z daleka widok jest piękny / It Looks Pretty from a Distance (PL 2011), which had premiered in Rotterdam, and then returned with HUBA / PARASITE (PL, UK 2014).

Anka Sasnal was born in 1973 in Tarnów in Poland and studied Polish literature and gender studies in Krakow. As a screenwriter, editor, and filmmaker, she lives in Krakow together with Wilhelm Sasnal, who was also born in Tarnów and studied architecture and painting in Krakow.  Wilhelm Sasnal attracted international attention as a visual artist with a series of solo and group exhibitions in renowned galleries and art institutions (including the Centre Pompidou, Tate Modern, Frankfurter Kunstverein, MoMA New York, Whitechapel Art Gallery London, and Guggenheim) with visual art in the form of paintings, comic books, drawings, photographs, and videos.

Their first longer collaborative film work is Świniopas / Swineherd, created in 2008, in which the eponymous swineherd – the film is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s literary fairy tale “The Swineherd” (1842) – goes into service with an unpleasant farmer in the Polish province and secretly smuggles a lesbian couple’s love letters back and forth. Shot in black and white, the surreal filmic result is emphasized more than a straight narrative. Performative elements alternate with documentary and experimental film fragments, while a bombastic score, which usually starts unexpectedly, comes in with numbers ranging from Elvis Presley all the way to contemporary atonal pieces. In this first joint film project significant characteristics of their artistic collaboration are already visible: the intensive focus on language, texts and literary models, which they transform into an image language or moving image that suits them. In interviews they both stress that they are not interested in conventional storytelling; while the plot of a story is secondary for them, the cinematographic image language and atmosphere are all the more important. At the same time, they always seek a balance between abstract images and reality. “The way we think about film comes from literature, but not because of the plot, but rather the poetry and the structure. We experiment a lot during shooting.” (Monopol - Magazine for Art and Life, online edition, 12.2.2014). Asked about their role models in film, they come up with names like Bruno Dumont, Ulrich Seidl, Michael Haneke, early Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Skolimowski, and representatives of the “Romanian New Wave”.

An explicit political stance can be noted in their films – thematically Anka and Wilhelm Sasnal circle around the current state of Polish society, rising xenophobia, the relationship of Polish society to the Catholic church, and especially the recent Polish past – Poland was long considered or regarded itself exclusively as a victim of the National-Socialists, but around the turn of the millennium Polish entanglements and involvement in the crimes of the Nazi regime were publicly discussed and treated artistically. In the film Świniopas / Swineherd the “Nazi past” is already washed to the surface, specifically in the form of dishes with a swastika on them, revealing the swamp. A dystopian world view, although not so much a pessimistic one – as they say themselves – may certainly be attributed to their work, along with an undisguised interest in the “dark” side of human beings. 

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