- In Paweł Pawlikowski newest pic, a young nun is only allowed to take her vows under the condition that she meets her only relative.
- Moritz Pfeifer met Agata Trzebuchowska during the Polish Film Festival in Paris in December 2013. Ida opened in theaters in France in February 2014.
- Pawlikowski’s film portrays Paris as a limbo for those who have shed their past and home, yet have not regained an identity.
- In this film a young mother must cope with the challenges of everyday life while her husband sits off a ten-year-sentence for an unspecified crime.
- Srdan Golubović’s Circles artfully illustrates the questions and challenges of daily life once war is over.
- This quaint documentary is about an unusual pair of photographers who travel around Poland to “capture their beautiful country”.
- Those who think they know Polish director Małgorzata Szumowska, may be surprised by the unconventionality of her earlier films.
- Julia Zelman reviews this often beautiful but rather queasy Holocaust fantasy and concludes that it is history as psychological folktale writ large.
- Polish artist-couple Anka and Willhelm Sasnal’s new film juxtaposes the life of a retired worker and a fresh mother in unexpectable ways.
- The East European Film Bulletin was at the Berlinale (February 6-16) to cover the event for EEFB.
February 5, 2014
Polish Focus 2014: After briefing our readers on Polish film politics since 1989, we turn to regular politics in this months editorial, offering a short outline of some recent developments.
Though many Poles lament a lack of influence on European politics (the voter turnout at the European Parliament elections in 2009 was a mere 24.5% compared to 43.3% in neighboring Germany), prime minister Donald Tusk and foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski from the centre-right Civic Platform have definitively discovered international politics for themselves in recent weeks. Sikorski was said to be a key actor in bargaining a deal between Viktor Yanukovych and the Ukrainian opposition on February 21st (soon forgotten as Yanukovich was ousted by the parliament the next day), while Tusk has been a vocal proponent of stricter measures against Russias military threats in Crimea. Historically linked, Poland and Ukraine have hosted the European Football Championship (UEFA) together in 2012, a rare cooperation that improved common infrastructure but seemed to do little in way of cultural convergence: Polish state media focussed on price hikes and failed development projects in Ukraine during the championship instead of looking for cultural, historical or social reference points. That Polish politicians are so vocal in Ukraine is partly due to the fact that Russia is wildly unpopular in both Poland and West-Ukraine, and partly due to the political situation in Warsaw. Since late 2012, the economy has slowed down and with it Tusk’s popularity (today, unemployment is still at a relatively high 14%).
Initially marvelled for dealing with the financial crisis relatively well, Poland has lost its image of a weather-proof economy. In September, thousands of Polish unionists gathered on the street to demand reforms in the labour code and the dismissal of labor minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz. Tusk reacted to his fading popularity by shuffling the government last November. Many conservatives (including the popular magazine Wprost) saw a PR-move in the step, expecting no major changes to the governments economic policy. So far, the PO has averted a recession, if by a margin, but opinion polls are shifting towards the rival Law and Justice party (PiS). As elections to the European Parliament grow closer, Tusk and Jaroslaw Kaczynski of PiS will be seen applauding each other less frequently (as they were during each others speeches addressing the Ukrainian crisis). Still, unlike their American counterparts, they are capable of cooperation. In January, Tusk was able to push forward measures designed to crack down on drink driving thanks to cross-party support. As long as Polish politicians are reminded of the merits of culture, film politics should be safe.
For our March issue, we saw two films by Polish helmer Paweł Pawlikowski: Ida, his succesful festival traveller from last year, and Woman in the Fifth with a narrative not unlike that of Polanski’s Tenant. Moritz Pfeifer also interviewed Agata Trzebuchowska, the main actress from Ida. Colette de Castro saw Diary of a Journey, a curious documentary about two photographers (student and teacher) who travel Poland. Meanwhile, Konstanty Kuzma and Moritz Pfeifer complement our Berlinale coverage with reviews of Brides (dir. Tinatin Kajrishvili) and Parasite (dir. Anka and Wilhelm Sasnal). For our Retrospectives, Pfeifer also saw Malogrzata Szumowska’s refreshingly experimental short films from film school. Finally, Patricia Bass saw Srdan Golubović’s Circles, a film which artfully illustrates the questions and challenges of daily life once war is over.
Konstanty Kuzma & Moritz Pfeifer