When spring begins to settle over London, it can mean only one thing for those with a love for the Polish silver screen: the Kinoteka Polish Film Festival. As the 18th edition of the UK’s largest Polish film festival approaches, we look back at the highlights of last year’s festival, which brought a superb blend of old and new cinema, stimulating documentaries, and a number of exclusive cinematic events.
For anyone with an interest in Poland’s contemporary film trends, the New Polish Cinema strand is essential viewing. While the work of classic Polish directors – such as Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Kieślowski – is generally more available and well-known, the younger generation’s talent is often missed outside of Poland itself. Three debutants representing three distinct genres of cinema made a particularly strong impact at last year’s festival. Piotr Domalewski’s Silent Night was perhaps the more conventional of the trio, crafting a realist Christmas Eve family drama with standout performances from Dawid Ogrodnik and Tomasz Ziętek. By contrast, Paweł Maślona’s Panic Attack did what many may have considered impossible by creating a genuinely laugh-out-loud Polish comedy more in the vein of Pedro Almodóvar than Stanisław Bareja. In a turn towards the surreal, Jagoda Szelc’s Tower. A Bright Day took a psychological-horror-infused approach to the topic of First Communion, displaying keen idiosyncratic promise.
Long before Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher, Polish genre fiction was known on the world stage through the science fiction efforts of one Stanisław Lem. Lem is perhaps one of the most widely-read sci-fi authors across the globe, and certainly one of the most widely-translated Polish writers, which makes it all the more surprising that relatively few of his works have been adapted for television and cinema. At last year’s festival, we sought to foreground his lesser-known adaptations with our Stanisław Lem on Film curation at Barbican Cinema. From the camp space opera of Silent Star (an East German precursor of sorts to Star Wars) to the more existential quandaries of The Interrogation of Pilot Pirx, our selection of rare archive films was thought-provoking and entertaining in equal measures.
Over the past few years, music and art have often played a much-loved role at the Kinoteka Polish Film Festival. While this has usually manifested itself in the form of Polish graphic design or live film scores, last year’s festival took things underground with the 140 Beats Per Minute. Rave Culture and Art in 1990s Poland event, hosted at Tate Modern. Taking as its starting point the transitional era of the 90s – a moment of profound economic and political change in Poland – this special event explored via a series of short films the free-wheeling optimistic idealism of Poland’s rave pioneers; those young people who drove their souped-up yellow Fiats to parties in the Polish countryside, met kindred spirits, and ultimately had an indelible impact on current-day Polish art.
We hope you enjoyed last year’s festival as much as we did, and look forward to revealing the full programme of the 18th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival in the coming weeks!
KINOTEKA Polish Film Festival returns to London’s festival scene from 19 March - 5 April 2020, bringing with it an exhilarating range of new Polish film and culture as well as highlighting lesser known gems ripe for rediscovery. As well as offering unique insights into Poland’s rich history and culture, the festival represents diverse and universal new works from exciting new filmmakers as well as those which have made a valued contribution and impact to the world filmmaking landscape. Hosted by some of London’s most prestigious and forward-thinking cultural institutions, this year also includes masterclasses, artist film screenings, workshops and musical entertainment.