In Fear Of Life - The Young Polish Cinema At The Turn Of The Century
Before the presence of a new generation of directors could be distinctly sensed in the late 1990s, few debut films had been shown during a festival in Gdynia - in 1995 there were only 3 films, in 1996 - 1, in 1998 - 2 films. In 1999 four debuts “eventually” appeared, similarly, in 2000. (I took into account only real debuts, not including first films made by well-known actors or operators, etc.). Finally, 2001 brought about this surprising number of twelve films.
Yet, if we apply here the above mentioned criterion, it will turn out that “in 2001 only 9 debuts were made, among them 3 TV films (“Belissima” by Artur Urbański, “Inferno” by Maciej Pieprzyca, “The Letter” by Denijal Hasanovic), 2 amateur films (“Louder than me” by Przemysław Wojcieszek, “…That Life Makes Sense” by Grzegorz Lipiec, and only three of them were feature-length films made by graduates of films schools (“The Double Portrait” by Mariusz Front, “Tomorrow it will be Heaven” by Jaroslaw Marszewski, “Eucalyptus” by Marcin Krzyształowicz, “To His Own Image” by Greg Zgliński). One way or another, this is a remarkable number.
People’s Republic of Poland (PRL): a long way to debut
In the PRL-period directing of a plot was entrusted only to a person who had graduated from a film school and had assisted at some productions or had already directed TV films, or documentaries. Due to that, the time before one could direct their first film extended considerably. Debutants were looked after by the so called Film Groups, which were a kind of artistic associations. Each Group attracted directors, literary managers (often outstanding writers) and managers of production. Elder colleagues offered screenplays for them, they were discussing their ideas with one another and selectng an experienced team, they were watching shot materials and advising on every stage of work on the film. The Groups were chaired by, among others, Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Stanisław Różewicz, Janusz Morgenstern. The best and the most promising directors were offered contracts by the Groups.
In the seventies, the Film Youth Studio, where about 40 debutants made their first steps, was set up on television. Among directors who began their career by television films were: Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Feliks Falk, Barbara Sass-Zdort, Tomasz Zygadło, Wojciech Wiszniewski, Paweł Kędzierski and others. They co-directed films comprising a few short stories (e.g. “Life Pictures”). Anyway, those directors created a kind of generation community debuting (in many cases with outstanding films) in the late seventies. This group included among others, Fillip Bajon (“The Aria for the Athlete”), Janusz Kijowski (“Index and Kung-fu”), Piotr Szulkin (“Golem”), Jerzy Domaradzki (“The Beast”). Although an expanded system of state protection existed (which was often none other than censorship), “the young” complained about long time preceding their first production: We keep repeating the same words, and raise the same problems, as a beginner director Krzysztof Kieslowski said in one of the debates, that the young have no chance of debut, and at the same time that they are instantly making debuts. The young lack access to anywhere, yet it turns out that they soon find access. Those people should be simply given an opportunity to demonstrate their skills. In fact no one gives it to them.
Hence, it is not surprising that since the end of the sixties a necessity for establishing a studio, which would deal with debuts and debutants exclusively, has been stressed. It was finally created in 1981. Karol Irzykowski’s Film Studio has existed till now, at present Janusz Kijowski is in charge of it. The studio offered almost the hothouse environment for work for graduates of film schools; it had complete freedom of action (obviously to a degree which was allowed in PRL). Directors entering the studio did not need to have certificates of assistantship. They were given right to search and … commit mistakes.
The eighties were time of profound stagnation and crisis in the cinema. This has undoubtedly resulted from the gloomy atmosphere of the post-war years. Despite the fact that in the Groups themselves over 50 debuts were made, the majority of them were unsuccessful. Except few names such as Robert Gliński and Jacek Skalski, neither significant artists nor phenomena emerged then.
Barons and frustrated men
Looking forward to their opportunity was not the only thing that in the early nineties young directors had to face. Communism collapsed in Poland, and the system changed. Market economy was at its infancy, and also in the cinema a criterion of profitability appeared. Film became an item of purchase. Home productions had hardly any chance of coming into being- no sooner had they appeared than they vanished from cinema screens to give way to extremely popular American movies. Fears were growing that Polish cinema might not withstand competition and go through hard times. Many debates concerning the future of cinematography were held. A great deal of time was devoted to debuts in them. Meanwhile, debutants were complaining not so much about the market but barrier of what was known as “networks”. This provided grounds for rather powerful conflict between the so called “frustrated men” and “barons”, that is older directors (mainly Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Zanussi), exerting a considerable influence over activities of the National Committee of Cinematography.
The former accused the „barons’ of hindering particular projects and preventing access to public money. Cinematography is not governed by artistic and market principles but by the coterie, as Wojciech Nowak, debuting in 1990 stated. Provided someone is part of “the system”, he is privileged. In the early nineties, the most active young, like Piotr Szulkin, Konrad Szołajski and Leszek Wosiewicz organized various “rows” staged during meetings of the Association of Polish Filmmakers. Even press conference was called in order to “reveal” “barons” and unsound mechanisms underlying Polish cinematography. That tone of reproach and grudge with respect to the established colleagues recurred in young directors’ (and not only their) statements throughout the nineties. The main issue was that instead of holding a kind of patronage over debutants, famous directors were ignoring their existence and dealing with securing their own business. Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Zanussi retorted that they could not see any interesting individualities, and if such had appeared in the Polish cinema, they obviously would have been able to “make their way”.
A tone of overt hostility and aggression dominated this disagreement. A completely new let us say, “constructive” opposition against the “old”, in terms of quality, was set up by today’s debutants. At that year students of the Film School in Łódź decided to unite in order to struggle for their future. Their efforts brought about Theatre Cinema, which premises were in one of rooms donated by Irzykowski’s studio. Young people, in total 30 ones, including operators (such as Karina Kleszczewska, Wojciech Szepel), directors (m.in. Artur Urbański, Piotr Kielar, Mateusz Bednarkiewicz, Xawery Żuławski, Łukasz Barczyk, Dariusz Gajewski), scriptwriters (m.in. Przemysław Nowakowski) created a rebellious manifesto (modeled to a certain degree upon Danish Dogma). Magnificent tradition of Polish cinema has passed away. By imitating foreign patterns we make it to the top of trash. In panic we are moving away from sensitivity and true emotion. Instead, we are showing meaningless aggression. A viewer becomes a passive consumer of film mash. We are endangered with cultural marginalization.
[...] Film loses a capacity to convey certain vital message”, such was a diagnosis of the Polish cinema by young artists. They thus referred to themselves: We want to create sincere films. We want to look for new solutions for innovative cinema. [...] the aim of Cinema-Theatre is to create ebbing wave bringing development of the Polish cinema. We are not looking for pure attractions but means reinforcing the meaning of the film. We do not want to create illusion of reality but photograph reality. Any form of censorship does not restrain us. We get rid of thought, dramaturgic and any other patterns. Anticipating all labeling and speaking about generational nature of their manifesto, members of Theatre Cinema highlighted: “We are neither united by aesthetic programme nor artistic manifesto [...] We are different and our films are also different”.
Theatre Cinema cannot boast about any spectacular activities (though Mateusz Bednarkiewicz and Xawery Żuławski staged their plays, being based on its structure); it is rather an informal group of friends or colleagues from the same school, meeting and talking every now and then. Differences exceeded similarities and everyone endeavours after their first or second film. Apart from reflections upon effectiveness of actions made by the association, the manifesto of Theatre Cinema is worth attention for one reason: “We exist. We take the floor”, as young directors stated. Thereby they made their older colleagues realize that young filmmakers exist, they constitute power which one cannot disregard, that they are numerous, and what is more, they treat their profession seriously and they are convinced that they have something really important to say.
In the hallway
After „mushrooming” of debutant films in the late seventies and a gap in the eighties, the onset of the nineties brought not only a wave of debates about debuts but also a wave of debuts. Since 1989 till 1993 many unusual personalities made their films – Mariusz Treliński (“Farewell to Autumn”), Wojciech Nowak (“The Death of Childmaker”), Mariusz Grzegorzek (“Talking to a Man from a Wardrobe”), Maciej Dejczer (“300 Miles to the Sky”, awarded with Felix), Łukasz Wylężałek (“The Rave”), Marcin Ziębiński (“When the Mind is Asleep”), Michał Rosa (“The Hot Thursday”), Dorota Kędzierzawska (“Devils, Devils”), Jan Jakub Kolski (“The Potato’s Funeral”), Filip Zylber (“Farewell to Maria”), Władysław Pasikowski (“Kroll”), Leszek Wosiewicz (“Kornblumenblau”). These were astonishingly mature films, elaborated with a distinctive author’s mark. Obviously, it was being considered at that time whether the group could be referred to as a generation, understood as an ideological or spiritual community). Certainly, those people shared thinking of the cinema in terms of personal statement, in terms of art, as well as bravery and consistency in selection of formal means of storytelling. One of critics, Tadeusz Lubelski claims that films made in the early nineties are characterized with pessimistic vision of human. Indeed, bearing in mind all these aspects, it turns out that so different debuts as sharp, exaggerated, bordering on sloppiness “The Rave”; “The Chamber”, and made in spirit of magic realism “The Potato’s Funeral”, or extremely rich in terms of staging, theatrical (in positive meaning of this word!) “Farewell to Autumn” can be juxtaposed.
Yet, debutants from the early nineties have one more thing in common – incomprehensible till now looking forward to making their second film. Many of those talented directors made their next films after many years: Mariusz Grzegorzek - after six years, Wojciech Nowak after nine years and Maciej Dejczer after eight, Lukasz Wylężałek and Michał Rosa after four. Actually, only Jan Jakub Kolski and Władysław Pasikowski presented their consecutive, adored by young audience films quite regularly. The former remained in the realm of magical poetical cinema, while the latter made consecutive action films with “machos” as protagonists. The other were not able to raise money for planned enterprises. I think that it would not be exaggeration to say that unable to take advantage of those talents, the Polish cinematography has lost its big chance.
Years of waiting had disastrous impact on condition of the majority of directors, who simply succumbed to frustration and exhaustion. When I started, I was feeling like a mother giving birth to a baby at the age of 18, and now is having a second baby at the age of 40, as Maciej Dejczer said, preparing for making “The Bandit”. Now we are behind the door. I was thinking that the most bumpy road is heading for debut and now I regret one cannot make debut twice. It appeared that the second films by Filip Zylber so awaited (also by viewers) (“The Executor”, 1999), as well as films by Wojciech Nowak (“Krugerandy”, 1999), Maciej Dejczer (“The Bandit, 1997) or Marcin Ziębiński (“The Ire”, 1997) are, as a matter of fact, unsuccessful attempts. Experiences of older colleagues undoubtedly trigger anxiety among emerging these days’ directors, being aware that only the second film can guarantee them fairly stable position in the cinematography.
To fill cinemas
Following a wave of debuts in the nineties, a long time lapsed until next wave appeared. Between 1995-1999, debuts were few in number. The majority of them were commercial films. Targeted at mass audience calques of American films – “Night Graffiti (1996) by Maciej Dutkiewicz, „Daddy” (1995) by Maciej Slesicki, “Fast Lane” (“Młode Wilki”) (1995) by Jarosław Żamojda. All the three directors were perhaps the first directors who overtly announced that their only and ultimate goal is filling cinema rooms in 100%. A curious fact is that the most ineffective and intellectually primitive film, “Fast Lane” seems to be the most interesting at present. This is because the director managed to capture the climate of the early nineties, marked by some kind of mental “revolution”. For many people, recently regained independence meant only unlimited possibilities of contriving and “seizing life”. Such diagnosis can be confirmed by the fact that protagonists of “Fast Lane” became idols of thousands of young people.
The films “Billboard” (1998) by Łukasz Zadrzyński and “The Ire” (1997) by Marcin Ziębiński are almost perfect examples of an attempt (anyway, a complete failure) to reconcile artistic ambitions with requirements of the market. Both pictures result from some kind of marketing calculation; they are products which were supposed to earn for themselves and at the same time keep appearances of intellectual depth. Similar strategy was behind Natalia Koryncka- Gruz’s debut “The Amok” from 1998.
Throughout those years only two modest authorial films: „The Grate” (1996) by a great documentary maker Paweł Łoziński (Marcel Łoziński’s son) and “The Harbour” (1997) by Jan Hryniak. The former, made under auspices of Krzysztof Kieslowski, features a story of a boy and pensioner fighting for 500-francs note trapped in the manhole in front of luxurious hotel. The protagonist of “The Harbour” is a provincial teacher, who fell in love with a young businessman that turns out to be a cheat. The boy lures her to the meeting organized by a corporation dealing with direct sale, under pretence of a date. Both films manifested anxiety stemming from emergence of two convergent realities in Poland. On the one hand, the predatory world of career and success, where competition and money are prime values. On the other hand, the world of the rejected, who either cannot or do not want to lose their sensitivity in pursuit for money. The directors of “The Grate” and “The Harbour” pronounce for the second reality, thus siding with “the losers”.
The second wave
In 1999 the first interesting „young” film after years appeared- “The Junction” by Urszula Urbaniak, featuring history of friendship between two girls from small town, Krysia and Maria. They both dream about leaving provincial paralyzing monotony and boredom, and in case of bashful Maria, of breaking free from the wings of overprotective mother. Maria falls in love with a handsome engine driver who arrives in the town, unfortunately, an energetic and bold Krysia poaches and seduces him. The friendship begins to disintegrate but Maria starts believing that she will manage to leave the town in the end. Urszula Urbaniak’s film tells the story of province which does not only constitute a place but also a “condition of mind” – escape from maturity, escape into the worlds deprived of prospects and hopes for better future, yet the world which is safe because of its familiarity.
In 2000, a very modest film by Lukasz Barczyk “I’m looking at you, Mary” caused a great stir during Gdynia festival. The protagonists of the film are Mary and Michał. She is studying, and he is working as a psychiatrist. Łukasz Barczyk demonstrates apparently good, relationship between two people, yet with underlying uncertainty. When it turns out that the girl is pregnant the boy falls into hysteria. He does not know if he wants to have a baby, if he is prepared to take responsibility, if he is ready to marriage, to fatherhood, and adulthood. Imperfect though it may be, Lukasz Barczyk’s film shows true emotion. It closes with the beautiful scene: after the row with family and cancellation of the wedding, worn out young couple are sitting in the bathroom. Michał takes a digital camcorder and observes the girl through the lenses. He begins from scratch, returns to the first gesture - gaze, so as not to overlook anything this time, not to omit.
It was in the same year that Małgorzata Szumowska’s film “The Happy Man” appeared in cinemas. In contrast to the majority of films, Szumowska’s work stands out as exceptionally careful motion picture from formal perspective. This is definitely merit of talented young operators (who are many in number in Poland): Michał Englert and Marek Gajczak. In derelict townhouse, mother and son live (or rather live side by side). The boy graduated from cultural studies, yet he is unemployed and in fact, he does not look for a job. He does not have friends either. It is not until his mother’s illness that he is woken up from a peculiar state of sleepiness. The diagnosis is grave - advanced cancer. The boy struggles to compensate for his hitherto indifference to her. In order to make her happy, he brings home the girl whom he accidentally met and introduces her as his fiancée. He does not reveal that she has a child. He lies that he has found a good job, while in fact, he is involved in a shadowy business. However, the mother also acts in front of her son, assuming he is not familiar with her real health condition.
The fate of “The Happy Man” is a peculiar story. In Poland it was received as an ambitious failure, most of all due to artificial staging, and excess of symbolism over convincing message. The authority of protector of this debut, late Wojciech Jerzy Has was believed to overburden the production. Nonetheless, “The Happy Man” appealed to the audience of European festivals, received many awards, and was nominated for Felix Award.
Four of films from 2001 are worth particular attention. The most original seems to be Mariusz Front’s debut “Double Portrait”. Protagonists of this film, shot partly with digital camera, are a young couple - a boy is a director trying to make a film, and a girl is an actress applying for a part. They rent a small flat in the big city where they moved to make a career. They work in a supermarket to earn a living. Front opens his film with observation of the city, people and conversations. However, the external world turns out chaotic, accidental and elusive. Then the director turns to his characters, their relationships, emotions and feelings, to the internal reality. The portrait from the title is double because it features story of the couple but also two realities. On the deeper level, the director shows his protagonists as they really are - confused, searching for their identities, deprived of internal strength and maturity. Numerous young Poles could identify with this portrait.
It was Maciej Pieprzyca, the director of “Inferno”, anyway, an outstanding documentary filmmaker, who undertook unambiguous evaluation of reality. His film draws upon the factual occurrence when two adolescent girls murdered their friend. In search for sources of incomprehensible aggression, the director slides into journalism and didacticism. “Inferno” portrays the church which is helpless about evil; family breakdown, school where young are not understood, and drugs. All this is set in overwhelming, gloomy district of blocks, which has been fashionable in Poland recently as a symbol of disintegration of social ties and increasing frustration which either turns into complete passivity or, as it is in case of protagonists of “Inferno” - into aggression.
An amateur, Przemyslaw Wojcieszek’s debut, „Louder than Bombs” seems a very interesting attempt (though a lot of formal reservations can be found). The young director managed to persuade an exceptional author of photographs, Jolanta Dylewska, who carefully selects films on which she is working, to cooperate with him. “Louder than bombs” is set in a small town adjacent to a gigantic plant. A couple of young protagonists must make serious decisions concerning the future. There are hardly any chances there to achieve anything. Stagnation and unemployment is commonplace there, there is no hope. The girl decides to go to USA to study; the boy is still looking for his position in life. He does not want to part with her. What is more, his father has just died. During his funeral, he meets relatives whom he has not seen for a very long time. The scenes of funeral banquet and dialogues with relatives are the best ones in this film; they disclose falsity of forced relations, and complete lack of understanding and communication between apparently close people. The only value, highlighted by the director is he relationship between two main protagonists. Yet, will this bond survive when it is confronted with reality?
Przemysław Wojcieszek’s film was fortunate enough to be shown in cinemas, which is not so easy in case of many young debutants. The audience could not watch “I’m looking at you, Mary” by Łukasz Barczyk, though the modest film by twenty-five year old graduate of Film School in Łódź received two important awards in Gdynia Festival: for the best debut and the best female role. The latter award went to Maja Ostaszewska. “I’m looking at you, Mary” was shown in state TV several times, the film was also presented during national reviews, yet it has never been put into wider circulation, like “The Junction”. It was also awarded in the Festival of Polish Feature Films for debut: the director and actresses: Ewa Lorska and Karolina Dryzner received awards. It was also honored during festivals in Cottbus, Turin, Montreal, and Sarajevo. In this case as well, no distributor dared introduce this film into a cinema. Only during special shows could viewers watch “The Man of Carts” (2000) by Mariusz Malec. The director himself organized some kind of tour, combined with concerts of VooVoo, the band, who were authors of the soundtrack.
Prompting of the spirit of time
Is there any link between the directors who have just made their debut and are shaping the portrait of what is known as “the young Polish cinema”? Are they consistent in implementing the manifesto of Theatre Cinema? Can one refer to them as a generation? If so, it is certainly not due to their age and commonality of experience. Can we therefore speak about one coherent image of the world, featured in the debutants’ films? Do such comparisons and evaluations make sense at all? I will refer to the statement made by Krzysztof Mętrak, late outstanding film critic, who had been writing for over 20 years that debutants, no matter if they want it or not, would be always compared and positioned together: although the bond between them seems illusory, they manifest certain options and intentions shaped by prompting of the ‘spirit of time’, either subduing to them or entering into conflict with them.
Looking closer at young Polish directors’ films allows to notice that this “spirit of time” prompts one thing most of all: it borders on impossible to create unambiguous coherent vision of reality. The world breaks apart into microcosms, pieces and shreds. This is perhaps reason why instead of attempts to delineate this world, young directors turn to privacy, intimacy, and bring to focus meetings and relationships between people. It can be illustrated by Jacek Borcuch’s film “Cauliflower”, comprising disconnected stories, or “Brain” by Xawery Żuławski. “Inferno”, Pieprzyca’s TV film captures state of anxiety, apprehension and frustration which are familiar to all young directors. It comes as a surprise that it was young amateurs who articulated, or rather shouted their frustration most expressively in their imperfect or unsuccessful films. Both “…That Life Makes Sense” by Lipiec, and “Louder than Bombs” by Wojcieszek stir with their authenticity of message and power of emotion. Protagonists of both films are haunted by lack of prospects, fear of future and inability to name their own desires and set goals and objectives.
Characters of the films concerned have problems with their adulthood, which is foregrounded in “I’m looking at you, Mary”, where the protagonist, like many of his peers (people about thirty) is stuck in permanent immaturity. Similarly, the protagonist of “The Happy Man”, coming up to thirty, and still unable to take up any life activity or choose his life path, does not want to grow up.
Films made by beginner directors have something more in common: the profound sense of devaluation of family. The family has been most uncompromisingly disclosed by young documentary maker, Marcin Koszałka, who shot “Such a Beautiful Son I Gave Birth to” at his own home. He went further than other artists by featuring the family as a group of completely alien people, yet hinting at a gap between growing up or adult children and parents. It transpires that the latter fail to offer support or point of reference; they are no longer a source of values and truth. Parents of today’s thirties (which is the average age of characters of the film) spent most of their lives at times of communism, and after the transformation of 1989 they did not become beneficiaries of the new system and they were unable to find their place in democratic reality. Their experience, knowledge and familiarity with life rooted in the past epoch, present no longer any value. Therefore, protagonists of the films discussed cannot cope with life, they lack role models. If they were to find you, they would find you here, as Elzbieta mother from “Double Portrait” says, not understanding why her daughter had to leave for the capital in order to become an actress.
It is worth asking, when the opportunity appears, about attitude of the young towards film tradition. If we ignore average, cautious films steering clear of personal subject matter (“Letter” by Denijal Hasanovic, inspired by Abbas Kiarostami’s cinema, Greg Zgliński’s “In His Own Image”, Jarosław Marszewski’s “Tomorrow will be Heaven”) and we concentrate on the most interesting ones – “I’m looking at you, Mary”, “Double Portrait” and “Belissima”, it can be noticed that their directors search for their own means of storytelling shyly. Obviously they do not refer to established surnames. If any influences exist, they are few in number - to charismatic school professors, and at the same time great artistic individualities, Mariusz Grzegorzek and Grzegorz Królikiewicz. There seems to be a shadow of Dogma over these films - in bold, unconventional work of camera recorder, in picture dynamics, in desire to come as close as possible to reality (which sometimes is not in keeping with desire to create). Though the above mentioned films might not seem rebellious, yet they are not orderly either. Directors, in pursuit for adequate form, happen to fall into mannerism and exaggeration, as is the case in Mariusz Front’s film, in which jerking camera recorder makes normal perception impossible. Yet, what matters is distinctive trace of one’s own path, personal outlook on life and personal manner of thinking of the cinema, not backed by borrowings or ready-made schemata.
Life „off hand”
There have been marked changes in the Polish cinema resulting from technological advancement. Nowadays, when digital cameras and videos are widely available, making a film does not require raising large amounts of money and a large team. Young directors, not willing to wait for debut for years, reach for digital equipment very eagerly. Both Łukasz Barczyk and Mariusz Front, the director of “Double Portrait” did so. “Brain” by Xawery Żuławski, “The Leather Mask” by Dariusz Gajewski, were made with digital camcorder. Young documentary filmmakers, such as Paweł Loziński (“Sisters”, “Such History”), Grzegorz Pacek (“I’m Angry”), Małgorzata Szumowska (“The Document”), and Marcin Koszałka (“Such a Beautiful Son I Gave Birth to”), also availed of “digital camera ” potential.
Accessibility and good quality are advantages of a digital camera recorder. Yet, it has also some limitations - this carrier determines both stylistics and subject matter of films to a considerable degree. As for formal aspect, a digital camera recorder imposes certain roughness and sloppiness of images, often taken “off hand”. One can forget about pretty sophisticated images, and be satisfied with something of home-made video kind. Obviously, this method can be used to make chamber, contemporary films, featuring what is close, intimate, showing the closest environment. This deprives filmmakers of a possibility of demonstrating all their skills, creative, and staging talents as well as power of their imagination. Hence, so many of them express concern about being identified with digital reel, and thereby being moved to the rank of semi-amateurs, in addition, obliged to refer only to “here and now”.
A digital camera recorder does much better in a documentary film, allowing for maximum approximation to reality and close contact with protagonists. Only by virtue of it, could Grzegorz Pacek (one of his achievements is vocal documentary “The Letter from Argentina” co-made with Franco de Pena, and telling the story of the found apparent son of Witold Gombrowicz) make “I’m Angry “, which strongest point is the idea – the director decided to entrust his camera recorder to a group of children from Warsaw “bad” district, Szmulka, so that they could record themselves, their homes, backyard, and friends. This brought about an extraordinary account of quite gloomy yet not deprived of joy and ray of hope life in “poverty districts”, where strength, brutality, domination govern, and survival is a goal. Grzegorz Pacek’s film received Grand Prix of “All-Polish Festival of Short-Feature Films in Cracow. A year before , during the same festival, Marcin Koszalka’s documentary “Such a Beautiful Son I Gave Birth to”, made with digital camcorder caused a stir.
Easy access to new technologies led to a kind of mushrooming of amateurish films, which are extremely popular among young audience who use video and digital reels to implement their ideas. Amateurs began to knock on the door of “official” cinematography, in Gdynia Festival even “off’ category was created for presentation of the most interesting achievements of amateurish and independent cinema. These are inexpensive productions, usually put into practice by a group of friends and their means. It must be stressed yet, that border between “amateurish” and “independent” is very vague, and it is difficult to categorize numerous films to either group. This can be illustrated by situation from before a few years ago when Przemysław Wojcieszek’s film “Kill them all”, recorded on a magnetic band, and shortlisted for the Festival in Gdynia, was removed from competition after it had already won one of amateurish films review.
However, Przemysław Wojcieszek did not surrender and in 2001 in Gdynia, he presented „Louder than Bombs”, plot made on 35mm band (thanks to Canal+ help), which was considered to be debut of this director in his twenties. Apart from Wojcieszek, a remarkable personality in “off” cinema is picturesque, Piotr Krzywiec – graduate of English studies, who thanks to his perseverance fulfills his pricey, as for amateurish cinema, dreams - he makes science fiction films (“God’s Eye”, “The Red Revolution”). Sky Piastowskie group from Zielona Góra also needs to be mentioned. It is a group of mates from the same district, who are shooting videos featuring contemporaneous stories about their peers. With digital camcorder, young actor Jacek Borcuch was able to make “Cauliflower”, a story about people passing one another in the street, not turning back, because they neither have time nor willingness. The camcorder, which observes their small private worlds, replaces them, as the director notes. This film was also screened.
It is difficult to foresee what future holds for today’s debutants and whether we will soon (if at all) see their works. The loss would seem far more serious bearing in mind the fact that some young truly talented directors emerged (Mariusz Front, Lukasz Barczyk, Artur Urbański and Małgorzata Szumowska). They would be able to change the face of Polish cinema, like their older colleagues - Wojciech Has, Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, Krzysztof Kieślowski or Agnieszka Holland, did before.