Modernity based on tradition
Poland is a country of rich film tradition that between the two World Wars had a well developed film production. On at least two occasions - at the end of the 1950s and in the beginning of 1960s as well as in the second half of the 1970s Polish film production was one of the leading in Europe. Authors such as Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi and the tragically short-lived Krzysztof Kieślowski belong at the very top of European and World film. Another Polish author, Roman Polanski, left the country and its film production after his great debut Knife in the Water (1962) was attacked by the Polish party. Besides them, Poland has had many other valuable filmmakers and some of them are still active today. Even though Wajda and Zanussi are still filming (their films are not so popular abroad as they used to be) and there have emerged a certain number of very talented younger film authors, we know very little about contemporary Polish cinema because their films can very rarely only be seen on television. However, the situation is not any different in other countries - most film theaters show commercial film productions (mostly Hollywood) and domestic films, while others get their chance only at festivals where the emphasis is usually on non-European, primarily Asian films. Even though there is no doubt that many great films come from Asia, it seems that European film is quite often unjustly neglected.
In spite of the aforementioned situation, Polish films win prizes from time to time. However, I cannot remember if Polish films have been shown on our international festivals of feature films (Motovun, Pula and Zagreb). I do remember that an interesting Polish film Edi (2002) by Piotr Trzaskalski was shown at the Festival of New Film and Video in Split. Therefore, this program of contemporary Polish film is a unique opportunity to learn about this interesting cinema culture. One of the authors is Krzysztof Krauze, with two films in this program, who has won many domestic and international awards, the other, perhaps even more interesting artist, is Jerzy Stuhr, one of the most famous Polish actors whose first main role was in Kieślowski’s Amateur (1979). Stuhr collaborated with this great director, and after his death tried (with great success) to build his own directing career drawing from Kieślowski’s stylistic and thematic elements. He directed his famous and acclaimed film, Big Animal, based on Kieślowski’s early screenplay. We will also see films by two younger film authors, Dariusz Gajewski (1964) with his second film Warsaw and Magdalena Piekorz (1974) with her debut The Welts. Both authors won awards with these films at the Polish Film Festival and their quality and thematic preoccupations complete the picture of Polish film. This program will undoubtedly show that we are wrong when we tend (which happens quite often) to claim that those cinemas which we know little about are in crisis. (Tomislav Kurelec)