Focus on Poland: While waiting for Pollywood, producers stick to auteur trend

By Marta Sikorska

    Warsaw (CentEast Daily News) -- For years the most remarkable trend in Poland has been auteur cinema dealing with contemporary social issues. Polish cinema is not only the domain of renowned masters such as Wajda or Zanussi.

    One of the most interesting filmmakers, Krzysztof Krauze, has a film output of works based on true events and biographies: young people taking revenge on their persecutor (The Debt - 2000), a naive painter famous in the 1960s (My Nikifor - 2004, winner of a Crystal Globe, the main award of the Karlovy Vary festival. The leading male part was played by actress Krystyna Feldman, who won for Best Actress in Karlovy Vary). Another valued maker of auteur films is Marek Koterski - his controversial films Day of the Wacko (2002) and We're All Christs (2006) deal with what Poles hold sacred: family, the intelligentsia, and Catholicism.

    Polish animated films enjoy a special position (The Cathedral, dir. Tomek Bagiński - nominated for an Oscar 2004). Another animated film, Peter and the Wolf by the UK's Suzie Templeton, was hugely popular at presentations worldwide; this puppet film was the largest co-production in Polish animation for years.

    Shot in huge decorations built in the halls of the Łódź Film Centre and the Se-ma-for studio, the film took more than eight months to make. The production crew numbered over 120 people. The film was a co-production of Se-ma-for Produkcja Filmowa and the British company Break Thru Peter in association with the Storm studio of Norway, with financial support from Channel Four. The puppets, decorations, cinematography, and digital image processing were all done in Poland. This animated film received a prestigious nomination for a BAFTA award in 2007.

    It is one of several co-productions made in Poland recently. Directors who decided to shoot their latest productions here, with Polish actors in the cast, include David Lynch (Inland Empire), Peter Greenaway (Nightwatching), and Ken Loach (It's a Free World). A Polish city, Wałbrzych, and its environs was the setting for Molly's Way directed by Emily Atef. It's a story about a young Irish woman's search for a man from Poland who is the father of her unborn child.

    The achievements of the Polish film industry are presented at a sizable number of domestic film festivals taking place all over the country. The most important of these is the Polish Film Festival held annually in September in Gdynia, in existence since 1974. The main awards of this festival are the Golden Lions.

    Under the Law on Cinematography, which has been in force in Poland since July 2005, Polish culture is supported by the participants of the audiovisual market: television stations, cable TV operators, digital platforms, distributors, and cinemas. Many films and also series are made with huge financial support from Polish public television TVP.

    At the initiative of the Polish Film Institute and the Association of Polish Filmmakers, an agreement was signed on June 13, 2006 to construct a technology park. The cinema city - already dubbed Pollywood by some local film buffs - will be a complex of halls, production studios, and other technical facilities, located in Nowe Miasto on the River Pilica, about 79 kilometres from Warsaw.

    The land assigned for the town is a former military airfield covering 467 hectares, with buildings offering 23,000 square meters of usable space. There will be 10 sound stages with office and employee facilities. Productions will include feature films, documentaries, but also commercials and series. The target crew will comprise about 150-200 permanent staff and about 1,000-1,500 during production. At present there are about 84 production companies in Poland and five film studios, the oldest established in 1949.