30 July, 2009

Spotlight On Polish Cinema

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

This year’s crop of contenders in the New Polish Films competition at the ERA New Horizons International Film Festival continue the unbroken chain of film artists who are acknowledged as world-class masters of their craft. This year’s program is especially strong, with a forceful representation of emerging women talents. Malgorzala Szumowska brings a masterful directorial hand and an intellectual discipline to her latest film “33 Scenes From Life”, which won the Special Jury Prize at the Locarno Film Festival. Katarzyna Rostaniec, a protégé of Andre Wajda, creates an eye-opening exploration of adolescent girls who trade their youthful sex appeal for money in “Mall Girls”. Kinga Debaska moves from documentary to fiction in her debut feature “Rebound”, about a psychiatrist with a secret heroin addiction.

Jerzy Skolimowski is one of the best known Polish directors in the West. Breaking 17 years of silence, he is back with “Four Nights Of Anna”, an enigmatic thriller about a crematorium worker who repeatedly breaks into a woman's house. Piotr Dumata has a cult following for his animated and experimental works. He premieres his drama/animation feature mix “The Forest” at this year’s Festival. Jan Jakub Kolski, often called the Polish Emir Kusturica, is receiving kudos for his newest project, “Happy Aphonya” , a multi-character study of the human condition. Jacek Blawut is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker who uses non-fiction technique to great effect in his feature debut “Before Twilight”. After winning awards for his short films, Michal Rosa stretches for his latest film “Scratch”, the story of a respectable husband and father whose family life is shattered when he is denounced for his past behavior during the communist period.

Debut or sophomore filmmakers in the section include: Maciej Pieprzyca, whose feature debut “Splinters” uses real stories as a touchstone for a contemplation of lives touched by sweetness and bitterness in equal measure. In “My Flesh, My Blood”, debut director Marcin Wrona spins a compelling story of a boxer who learns he has a brain tumor. The directorial team of Boleslaw Pawica and Jaroslaw Szoda’s debut film “Miracle Seller” is a poignant road movie centering on an alcoholic who encounters two young runaways. In “Unmoved Mover”, director Lukasz Barczyk draws on classic thriller technique to tell a story of modern day anxiety and the decline of moral values. Similar themes are struck in "Snow White and Russian Red", director Xawery Zulawski’s adaptation of a famed novel by Dorota Mastowska. Working in a range of film styles, Polish directors, both veteran and debut, bring a unique vision to their film meditations.

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