By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
Poland has had an active film industry since the beginning of the 20th century and continues to be one of the most active players on the Eastern European film scene. Having produced such acknowledged film masters as Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jan Lenica, Lech Majewski and Jerzy Skolimowski, the Polish film scene has flourished, even under the strict demands of 40 years of Communist rule. As the economic dynamo of the “new Europe” and host country to the world-renowned Lodz International Film School, a new generation of filmmakers is now emerging.
American audiences have an opportunity to discover these new talents-in-the-making at the New York Polish Film Festival, which runs from May 9 to 13 at the Anthology Film Archives, one of New York’s most committed film showcases. For the fourth time, the Festival is presenting a fascinating program featuring some of the most interesting, exciting and diverse feature, short and documentary films from Poland.
One of the Festival’s highlights occurred on Sunday evening, with the premiere at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art of Katyn, the Oscar-nominated film by film master Andrzej Wajda. The film is a recreation of one of the most shocking incidents of World War II, when Soviet soldiers slaughtered thousands of Polish officers and citizens in the forests of Katyn. A story that could not be told during the Communist regime, Wajda brings all the drama of the incident and its aftermath in an impressive sweep of historical importance. The special screening was introduced by Dr. Annette Insdorf, Director of Undergraduate Film Studies at Columbia University and a noted writer and film critic who has written several books on films that chronicle the Holocaust.
Among the festival's films are: Savior's Square by Krzysztof Krauze and Joanna Kos-Krauze, which won Best Picture honors at the Gdynia Film Festival; Immensity of Justice by Wieslaw Saniewski; Jasminum by Jan Jakub Kolski; Extrasby Michal Kwiecinski; Tricks by Andrzej Jakimowski, which won the Best Film prize at the Miami Film Festival; Time To Die by Dorota Kedzierzawska; Tomorrow We Are Going To The Movies, which won the Best Debut film prize at the Gdynia Film Festival; Preserve by Lukasz Palkowski; and SSummer Love by Piotr Uklanski, a Polish Western (imagine that) that had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. A short film or documentary accompanies each feature.
Most of the Festival’s are award-winners in Poland and abroad but have never been seen in the United States. Leading Polish directors, actors and young filmmakers are participating in the festival, using the opportunity to present their work with audiences and to perhaps find American distributor interest. New York is home to a large Polish community so there is a strong core audience interested in films that explore Polish history and contemporary culture.
The producer of the festival is Hanka Hartowicz Productions FILMART, which has introduced Polish films to the American public at special programs at various institutions, including the first American retrospective of the films of Jerzy Skolimowski at the Anthology Film Archives last December. .
The New York Polish Film Festival is co-organized by the Association of Polish Filmmakers, with support from the Polish Film Institute, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York, and the Kosciusko Foundation. Plans are in place to do a touring program of the films, giving national audiences a chance to discover these blazing new talents. For more information on the Festival, visit their website: www.nypff.com