15th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival

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KINOTEKA is back! Taking place from 17 March to 5 April at venues across London, the 15th KINOTEKA Polish Film Festival is presented by the Polish Cultural Institute in London in partnership with Pola Arts Foundation, and co-financed by the Polish Film Institute, sponsored by Lebara, Polaron, The Polish Bakery. The 15th Kinoteka’s Offical Drinks Partner will be Dry Martini by Javier las Muelas at Melia and we are happy to have the Melia White House as the Official Hotel Partner. Showcasing the best of Polish cinema and culture, the festival programme offers a diverse mix of award-winning and crowd-pleasing films and documentaries, live performances, workshops, Q&As and special guests at the Barbican, BFI Southbank, Close-Up Cinema, ICA, London Film Academy, Regent Street Cinema and expanding to new screening partners Calvert 22, POSK Jazz Café, Whitechapel Gallery and UCL. As in previous years, the Digital Fix will be providing review coverage of the festival. The full programme is available at the festival website here.

This year’s Kinoteka main retrospective programme is dedicated to the memory of Andrzej Wajda, the giant of post-war Polish Cinema and unarguably the most influential and celebrated Polish filmmakers ever, who passed away last October. Described by Martin Scorsese who has acknowledged his influence as “a master filmmaker”, Wajda was awarded an honorary Oscar for five decades of directorial achievements in 2000 then continued to work for almost another two decades. Barbican, Close-Up Cinema and Calvert 22 Gallery present such classics as Man of Iron (1981) (25 March, Close-Up Cinema), The Maids of Wilko (1979) (31 March, Calvert 22), A Generation (1955) (2 April, Barbican) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958) (4 April, Barbican).

The festival opens with the UK premiere of Andrzej Wajda’s last film Afterimage (17 March, Regent Street Cinema) an insightful depiction of Władysław Strzemiński, the famous Polish avant-garde painter. As much a celebration of the brilliant work of one man, Wajda’s final film is a commentary on the inherent suffering of any true artist. It is followed by a Q&A with Wajda’s long-term creative collaborators; the Oscar-nominated Paweł Edelman (The Pianist), one of the most versatile Polish cinematographers working today, who has found success both in Poland and Hollywood, and producer Michał Kwieciński (Katyń), the founder and owner of Akson Studio, the hugely prosperous production company that has worked with the likes of Wajda, Jerzy Skolimowski and Márta Mészáros to name a few.

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The Regent Street Cinema hosts KINOTEKA’s New Polish Cinema strand, showcasing the best of contemporary Polish cinema and representing a cross section of cinematic styles and genres. Jan P. Matuszyński’s acclaimed The Last Family (2016) (18 March, RSC) takes the famous artistic Beksiński family as its inspiration and imagines what the dynamic between the members might have been over twenty-eight tumultuous years, through various trials and tribulations, love and death.

Blindness (2016) (19 March, RSC) by Ryszard Bugajski chronicles the dark true story of a Stalinist criminal, Julia Brystiger, whose predilection for torture earned her the eerie moniker ‘Bloody Luna’. Brystiger ended up renouncing Communism, found salvation in religion and begged forgiveness for her sins. Bartosz M. Kowalski’s teen drama Playground (2016) (19 March, RSC) starts off as a sweet tale of a schoolgirl crush, only to morph into something wholly unexpected.

Prolific theatre and film actor, rising star Maciej Stuhr, the festival’s special guest, can be seen in the light-hearted romantic comedy Planet Single (2016) (18 March, RSC), Poland’s answer to Love Actually and The Proposal, where he plays a charismatic TV personality who seemingly can get any woman he wants, as well as starring in acclaimed director Janusz Majewski’s swinging depiction of the 50’s Polish jazz scene, Eccentrics: The Sunny Side of the Street (26 March, RSC).

Another Kinoteka favourite, director Michał Rosa returns to the festival with his latest film, the Holocaust drama Happiness of the World (19 March, RSC). Labelled as Wes Anderson-esque for its meticulously crafted scenes and Silesia guesthouse setting full of weird and wonderful residents, who each seem to live in their own fantastical realities, Happiness of the World is supported by UK Jewish Film. It is hoped that Michał Rosa will attend the festival and answer questions in a post-screening Q&A.

Cinematographer, screenwriter, documentary filmmaker and director Marcin Koszałka has twenty-seven awards to his name, and one of the most well-rounded careers in Polish cinema. His hands-on approach along with his meticulous attention to detail have made him a highly sought after collaborator. Koszałka has worked with Borys Lankosz on The Reverse (2009), Jacek Bromski on Entanglement (2011) and most recently with Michał Rosa on Happiness Of The World (2016). Declaration Of Immortality (2010) and User-Friendly Death (2007) are perfect viewing for anyone who has the common morbid curiosity to learn about what actually happens in a crematorium.

Both films are showing at the ICA as part of KINOTEKA’s Focus on Marcin Koszałka (23 March), screening four important documentaries from the boundary-pushing filmmaker as well as the UK premiere of his acclaimed directorial feature film debut, The Red Spider (21 March, ICA). Loosely based on a serial killer (the so-called Vampire of Kraków) who tormented Poland in the 60s, Koszałka’s film is more of a thriller than biopic, exploring the evil tendencies of people and how they come to be the worst versions of themselves. If you haven’t discovered Marcin Koszałka’s talents already, get ready to dive into his macabre world.

Hubert Woroniecki has been working in the fashion industry since 1989 as a photo producer and modelling agent. In 1992 he was the head of the women’s department for Glamour models in Paris. A colourful feast for the eye, Woroniecki’s documentary, Casablancas: The Man Who Loved Women (2016) (18 March, RSC) gives an insider’s perspective on the world of modeling and the life of John Casablancas, the founder of Elite Model Management and the man who introduced supermodels to the world. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Hubert Woroniecki.

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Wanda Jakubowska (1907-1998) made fourteen feature films in a career spanning fifty years, yet apart from the international acclaim greeting The Last Stage (1948), the landmark Holocaust drama shot on the site of the actual Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where Jakubowska herself had been an inmate, she is barely known outside her native Poland, or even nowadays in it. The reasons are complex, but generally to do with her unwavering allegiance to Soviet communism. Lauded in the 50s, her films fell out of fashion in the 60s and were vilified as propaganda in the 80s and 90s as Poland emerged from the communist era. It is clear however that Jakubowska was an extremely talented director and the new KINOTEKA strand ‘Undiscovered Masters of Polish Cinema’ offers audiences an opportunity to discover this unsung pioneer of Polish film who was one of the first and historically important Polish female directors who started her career in the 1930s. Her work has had a huge influence, especially The Last Stage on the Holocaust films that followed, including Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. The ICA screens The Last Stage (1 April) as well as a rare screening of her psychological drama Encounters In The Dark (1960) (2 April).

The Whitechapel Gallery (18 March) screens a selection of Polish artist films including seminal works of the 70s avant-garde including films by Wojciech Bruszewski, Paweł Kwiek, Ryszard Waśko, as well as Arton Review, a project by the Arton Foundation in Warsaw in which Polish artists of the younger generation create film works inspired by the classics of Polish experimental filmmaking and video art. The Kinoteka programme features works commissioned by Arton, such as Telepathy by Łukasz Jastrubczak, Occurrence by Agnieszka Lasota, ID by Karol Radziszewski and is accompanied by a discussion on these unique intergenerational artistic collaborations with Waśko, Kwiek, Lasota and Radziszewski.

Other one-off KINOTEKA events include a screening of Janusz Zaorski’s Generations (2016) (20 March) at UCL. A full-length docudrama made for the anniversary of Feature Film Studios (WFF), Generations uses fragments from 50 titles to tell the story of contemporary Poland and Polish Cinema. The fragments of films, starting with Andrzej Wajda’s A Generation (1955) and spans works from Chęciński, Has, Kutz, Polański, Holland, Kieślowski, Marczewski and Zanussi to form a story about Poles from the times of the Nazi occupation, through to the period of Stalinist terror, the unfulfilled expectations of the Gierek Era, Martial Law and the elections of June 4th 1989. The Regent Street Cinema also screens Kościuszko at the Battle of Racławice (1938), Joseph Lejtes film, depicting one of the first battles of the Kościuszko Uprising against Russia.

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In addition there’s also a Kids Friendly screening of Tomasz Szafrański’s family adventure movie Adventurer’s Club (2015) at POSK Jazz Café (2 April). As part of the Wajda tribute season, KINOTEKA has partnered with cinema-supper club KinoVino and Calvert 22 Gallery to bring audiences a special screening of Andrzej Wajda’s stylish 20’s set drama The Maids of Wilko (31 March). A successful young man returns home to a family of five women who were each in love with him. The film will be followed by a thematically linked dinner for ticket holders, created by renowned Polish food writer and cook, Ren Behan.

KINOTEKA and The London Film Academy Studio returns for an intensive three-day programme (29-31 March) aimed at directors, writers and creative producers with proven experience (credits on shorts or first low-budget features) who are adapting source material for the screen / working on an adaption project. The ten selected filmmakers will participate in Q&As, practical lectures, workshops and masterclasses with industry professionals. Previous speakers have included Agnieszka Holland (In Darkness), Ivana MacKinnon (Slumdog Millionaire), Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida), Ben Blaine (Nina Forever), Will Tennant (Imaginarium Studios, Star Wars: The Force Awakens). This year’s Kinoteka Studio professionals will include Borys Lankosz, Polish documentary and feature filmmaker.

Oscar-nominated animator, director and master of digital SFX Tomasz Bagiński received the BAFTA for Best Short Animation in 2006 for Fallen Art. His skills in blending live action with animation have made him sought after in advertising, TV and gaming. Bagiński was destined to be a forerunner of Polish new media ever since he made his first film The Hunt at the maths department of Warsaw University where his father worked. Enrolling at the film school in Łódź only to find that he was ahead of the curve, and enrolling again in an architecture course while teaching himself computer animation in his spare time, Bagiński’s film The Cathedral (2002) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Animated Film. KINOTEKA is delighted to invite Tomasz Bagiński to discuss his acclaimed cross-platform work at BFI Southbank (30 March).

KINOTEKA wil celebrate Polish Animation with an extra special Closing Night Gala event at the Barbican on 5 April. The artrock sextet British Sea Power will perform a specially commissioned live score alongside a selection of the best Polish animated shorts chosen by the band. Thhis unique evening will feature Yan Scott Wilkinson on vocals and guitar, Neil Hamilton Wilkinson on vocals, bass and guitar, Martin Noble on guitar and keyboards, Matthew Wood on drums, Abi Fry on viola and keyboards and Phil Sumner on keyboards, cornet and guitar. Known for their weird and wonderful lyrics and their magnetic live performances British Sea Power will be touring the UK this April to promote their sixth and latest studio album, Let The Dancers Inherit The Party. The acclaimed group have previously been responsible for a series of acclaimed film scores including Robert J Flaherty’s classic Man of Aran and Penny Woolcock’s From The Sea To The Land Beyond.

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