A new generation of emerging Polish film talent has recently come to the fore. As Michał Oleszczyk, Polish Film Festival’s former artistic director comments: “This is a generation incredibly aware of film language in all its variety. They have absorbed large chunks of both arthouse and mainstream world cinema. No earlier generation of Polish filmmakers has had this wide an access to cinema, no other was so Westernised in its approach and communication skills, and no other had such complex and searching approach to Polish history, identity and class tensions.”
The accolades to their names in recent years (most prominently Paweł Pawlikowski’s success at Cannes 2018), have really helped to put Polish cinema on the map and to lead the focus towards these emerging talents, which could be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
With that said, here are some talented Polish filmmakers that you should keep your eye on and their latest films you should be watching…
1. Paweł Pawlikowski
With his film Ida (2013), Pawlikowski made history, being the first Polish film to scoop up the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Academy Awards. The director also broke records this year at Cannes Film Festival with Zimna Wojna (Cold War, 2018) being the first Polish film to be selected for the Official Selection since 1990 and also being the first Polish director to win the prestigious award for Best Director. Alongside this, the film recently won the Best International Film at the British Independent Film Awards.
Inspired by Pawlikowski’s parents, the film follows a turbulent romance between two incompatible lovers set against the backdrop of the 1950s Cold War in Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris. The film was applauded for its black-and-white cinematography and the sensational performance that the director drew from Joanna Kulig.
Pawlikowski’s approach to filmmaking is widely lauded; he manages to create an atmosphere on set that allows for cast input, whilst inspiring on-set improvisation. Needless to say, he is now regarded as one of Poland’s leading filmmakers.
2. Piotr Domalewski
Domalewski, whose prior work consisted of short films, 60 Kilo Niczego (60 Kilos of Nothing, 2017) and Zle Uczynki (Evil Deeds, 2016), burst on to the Polish cinema scene making a strong impression with his feature film Cicha Noc (Silent Night). The film won not only the Golden Lion but also six other awards at the 2017 Polish Film Festival and the following year won ten awards at the 2018 Polish Film Awards. The film also picked up the sought-after Best Discovery award at this year’s Raindance Film Festival.
In a story that is equally funny and sad, the film explores the difficulties of emigration and the strains it has brought upon countless Polish families. Critics have branded this as one of the most important and mature Polish feature film debuts in decades and named the young director as a filmmaker who offers exciting prospects for the years to come.
3. Małgorzata Szumowska
Regarded as one of the most prominent film directors of today, Szumowska has a plethora of acclaimed films to her name. The Sundance Institute acknowledged the script for Ono (Stranger, 2004) as one of the three best scripts from Europe. Additionally, Cialo (Body, 2015) swept up the Best Film award at the Polish Film Awards, the Golden Lion at the Polish Film Festival and won the Silver Berlin Bear Best Director award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Whilst Twarz (Mug, 2018), her latest feature, is generating much attention. The film has been nominated in several festivals for Best Film and won the Silver Berlin Bear Jury Grand Prix at the Berlin International Film Festival.
What stands Szumowska apart from other filmmakers is not only the intelligence she brings to her storytelling, but also a serious tone which draws upon individual struggles that are often neglected from mainstream media. Her films are poignant, relatable and not to be missed.
4. Lukasz Grzegorzek
Grzegorzek is a director and writer known for his debut film Kamper (2016) and Córka Trenera (A Coach’s Daughter, 2018). His first film gathered numerous awards, one of those being the Best Discovery award at the 2016 Raindance Film Festival and a nomination for the Golden Lion at the 2016 Polish Film Festival.
What makes this film so unique is, contrary to most Polish productions, the script is designed to authentically portray the truth; the dialogue spoken is similar to what you might hear at a pub or on a cigarette break and the characters’ behaviour is realistic in its avoidance of grand fight scenes and shouting matches. Instead, the film favours behaviours and words that stress the difficulty in expressing ones true feelings, which accurately paints the struggles of this generation, who tend to hide behind façades to protect themselves and their emotions.
Grzegorzek is a very exciting director who speaks truths and strives for realism in his films. Definitely a director to watch out for.
5. Zofia Kowalewska
At the tender age of 23, Kowalewska has achieved a great deal. Her debut short documentary Wiezi (Close Ties, 2016) was shortlisted for the 2017 Academy Awards, and to date, the film has received 17 international awards and was a Sundance Film Festival nominee for the Short Film Grand Jury Prize. Wiezi is a story about an elderly couple’s 45-year long marriage and the difficulties it has brought over the years. This lighthearted short draws upon universal issues, such as loss, forgiveness and the transient nature of relationships.
Her most recent film, Bliscy (Loved Ones, 2018) is causing a stir too, being nominated for the Silver Lion in the Short Feature Film Competition at the 2018 Polish Film Festival.
As a third year student of Film Direction at The Film School in Lodz, with alumni spanning the likes of Andrzej Wajda, Krysztof Kieślowski and Zbigniew Rybczyński, the future for the young director, with an already esteemed portfolio of work, seems pretty bright.