A Brief Approximation To A History Of Polish Cinema
By: Jorge Isaac Veytia & Absar Ahmad
Poland: a country of over 38 million people is an upcoming economic powerhouse. Not many know the fact that this former Communist bastion has a long history of serving the World Cinema. Polish Cinema, in fact, is as old as cinematography itself.
Early History of Polish Cinema During The First & Second World Wars
The history of Polish cinema coincides in a parallel way according to the Polish political history. We could say the first Polish film was “Antoś pierwszy raz w Warszawie” (Antoś for the First Time in Warsaw) by Antoni Fertner, premiered on October 22, 1908; even we had other cinema initiatives with Kazimierz Prószyński, who patented his camera before the Lumière brothers. Polish films were very famous across many points in Europe before the first World War, and they were even shown in Berlin, Germany, starring the extremely famous legendary actress–Pola Negri. Eugeniusz Bodo and Mieczyslawa Cwiklinska are other important actors around this time.
Since the Polish government continued to work in London, England as a government in exile during the second World War, a lot of cultural manifestations happened around and cinema wasn’t the exception: the movie “Calling Mr. Smith” denounced many Nazi lies prevalent during the second world war. “Forbidden Songs” (polish. Zakazane Piosenki in 1946 by Leonard Buczkowski) is the first Polish movie after the second world war, concerning German occupation of Poland. But, things changed a lot after the allied victory as Poland became a communist stronghold for the four decades. And, communism left a strong mark on the Polish cinema.
History of Polish Cinema & Movies During The Cold War Era
During the communist period, Film Polski (polish. Przedsiębiorstwo Państwowe Film Polski) was in charge of producing every film in the country and everything was very well-coordinated and directors had at their disposal most of the necessary resources of the state for their creations. This was an era that made Poland a renowned power in the World Cinema circles. Zbigniew Hubert Cybulski, Irena Kwiatkowska, Kalina Jędrusik, and Piotr Fronczewski are some important actors of this era, who received accolades across the world.
Directors such as Roman Polanski (“Knife in the Water”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “The Pianist”) and Krzysztof Zanussi (“Moral Anxiety”, cinema in 1970s) became cinema icons at home as well as overseas. Until the martial law in 1981, censorship arose with tremendous impact. The movie “Interrogation” (“Przesłuchanie” with Krystyna Janda and Janusz Gajos) was censored until the end of communism depicting many crimes of the secret police. Mainly historical nationalist subjects were the center of attention and there were even series for children concerning World War-II events. During censorship directors were avoiding it but talking about allegories of human choices and conscience.
With the victory of “Solidarity” and the beginning of democratic life in Poland, other genres developed such as action (gangster movies became widely popular), fantasy, suspense, horror, romantic comedies, and other completely open genres and subjects were now treated in the cinema with a clearly marked American accent. Other directors burst on the scene, such as Krzysztof Kieślowski in “Dekalog”, and Agnieszka Holland in “Copying Beethoven”, Janusz Kamiński in “Schindler’s List”, Małgorzata Szumowska in “33 Scenes from Life”, Jan Jakub Kolski in “Between the Paradise and Earth”, Tomasz Bagiński in “Polish Legends”, Krzysztof Krauze in “Learning for Life”, Władysław Pasikowski for “Jack Strong”, and Paweł Pawlikowski: who was nominated for an Academy Award in 2019 for “Cold War”. Actors such as Agata Bronisława Buzek, Agata Kulesza-Figurska, Marcin Dorociński, Maja Ostaszewska, and Jakub Gierszał are other important and emerging actors nowadays.
Top Polish Film Festivals
- The Warsaw International Film Festival
- Polish Film Festival in Gdynia
- T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival
- Transatlantic Film Festival
- The International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography Camerimage
- Film and Art Festival Two Riversides
- Kraków Film Music Festival
- International Film Festival of Independent Cinema Off Camera
- Millenium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival
- Koszalin Debut Film Festival, The Young & Cinema (Młodzi i Film. Koszaliński Festiwal Debiutów Filmowych)
- Kinoteka Polish Film Festival, it is based in the United Kingdom and serves the large Polish immigrant/ancestry community of England.
Top Polish Movies of All Time
- The Pianist (2002) by Roman Polański
- IDA (2013) by Paweł Pawlikowski
- Katyń (2007) by Andrzej Wajda
- Cold War (2018) by Paweł Pawlikowski
- Wołyń (2016) by Wojciech Smarzowski
- Dekalog (1989) by Krzysztof Kieślowski
- Ashes and Diamonds (1958) by Andrzej Wajda
- Three Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kieślowski
- Knife in the Water (1962) by Roman Polanski
- Illumination (1973) by Krzysztof Zanussi
- The Saragossa Manuscript (pol. Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie in 1965) by Wojciech Jerzy Has
- Man of Marble (pol. Człowiek z marmuru in 1977) by Andrzej Wajda
- A Short Film about Love (pol. Krótki film o milosci in 1989) by Krzysztof Kieślowski
- Escape from the ‘Liberty Cinema’ (pol. Ucieczka z kina ‘Wolnosc’ in 1990) by Wojciech Marczewski
- Sexmission (pol. Seksmisja in 1983) by Juliusz Machulski
- Controlled Conversations (pol. Rozmowy kontrolowane in 1991) by Sylwester Chęciński
- Rose (pol. Róża in 2011) by Wojciech Smarzowski
- Europa Europa (ger. Hitlerjunge Salomon in 1990) by Agnieszka Holland
Famous Polish Filmmakers
- Walerian Borowczyk
- Wojciech Jerzy Has
- Agnieszka Holland
- Jerzy Kawalerowicz
- Krzysztof Kieślowski
- Wojciech Marczewski
- Andrzej Munk
- Jerzy Skolimowski
- Wojciech Smarzowski
- Andrzej Wajda
- Roman Polanski
Keywords: Polish Cinema, Polish Films, History of Polish Cinema, Polish Film Festival, Great Polish Films, Kinoteka Polish Film Festival, Brief History of Polish Cinema, Short History of Polish Cinema, Polish Movies, Famous Polish Filmmakers.