6th March – 28th March, cinemas across London + Edinburgh Screenings (April)
Screenings at the BFI Southbank, Prince Charles Cinema, ICA, Cine Lumiere, Rich Mix, Southbank Centre, Phoenix Cinema, Watermans Arts Centre, POSK, Ognisko Polskie.
The Kinoteka Polish Film Festival, organised by the Polish Cultural Institute and supported by the Polish Film Institute, returns in 2024 for the 22nd edition of the festival, running between 6 March and 28 March in venues across London.
This year’s line-up features new works from some of Poland’s most renowned contemporary filmmakers including Agnieszka Holland, Małgorzata Szumowska & Michał Englert, and DK & Hugh Welchman, as well as delving into the nation’s illustrious cinematic past with retrospective screenings from some of the nation’s leading cinema voices such as Walerian Borowczyk and Krzysztof Kieślowski.
With a packed and finely curated programme that also includes documentary, family film, short films and two live music events, this year’s festival promises to be a unique and exciting celebration of Poland’s diverse cinematic output.
Kinoteka 2024 begins on 6 March at BFI Southbank with an Opening Gala screening of the critically acclaimed and deeply moving Green Border (Zielona granica, 2023) from director Agnieszka Holland (In Darkness, The Secret Garden). This vitally important film shines a light on issues of migration that have been the subject of great political debate across Europe.
After moving to the north east of Poland, psychologist Julia (Maja Ostaszewska) becomes a participant of the dramatic events unfolding at the Polish-Belarusian border. Conscious of the risk and the legal consequences, she joins an activist group helping refugees hiding out in the forests, which were declared the site of a national emergency. Simultaneously, a Syrian family fleeing civil war, accompanied by an Afghani teacher, try to reach the borders of the EU, unaware that they have become pawns in a fraudulent scheme of the Belarusian authorities. In Poland, their path crosses with that of Julia and a young border guard, Jan. The events unfolding around force them all to revisit a fundamental question: what is humanity? Green Border arrives at Kinoteka following a prestigious run on the international festival circuit, including Venice, Toronto and Busan International Film Festivals, as well as huge box office takings in Poland, and the festival is proud to open with this astonishing film from one of the nation’s leading auteurs.
Heading to the BFI IMAX on 28 March, the festival’s Closing Gala for 2024 will be an exciting celebration of film and music, where the audience will be treated to Polish box office smash-hit The Peasants (Chłopi, 2023) accompanied by live music from composer Łukasz Rostkowski aka L.U.C.
Using an advanced oil painting animation technique, The Peasants is a visually thrilling rendering of Władysław Reymont’s Nobel Prize-winning tale. Crops, relationships and dowries preoccupy the wagging tongues of the villagers of Lipke. Jagna (Kamila Urzędowska) is wedded off to a rich widower, but her love for his son threatens to tear all their lives apart. Like their Academy Award-nominated Loving Vincent, DK and Hugh Welchman’s latest film evokes a world of breathtaking beauty and occasional brutality, exposing the underbelly of a patriarchal 19th-century rural community. Like Loving Vincent the film is also artistically inspired, reflecting the artistic style of painters from Poland’s Young Poland movement. Following a hugely successful cinema run with over 1.7 million admissions in Poland, UK audiences will be able to see this visually stunning work on the UK’s largest screen for a truly immersive musical and cinematic experience.
NEW POLISH CINEMA
Celebrating the very best in contemporary Polish film, the festival’s New Polish Cinema strand this year plays host to the latest work from Małgorzata Szumowska (Never Gonna Snow Again, Mug, Body) and Michał Englert (Never Gonna Snow Again, Infinite Storm). Woman Of (Kobieta z, 2023) is set against the landscape of the Polish transformation from communism to capitalism, spanning 45 years of the life of Aniela Wesoły (Małgorzata Hajewska) and her journey to find personal liberty as a trans woman. The film examines the choices Aniela must make to become who she truly is, as her laborious journey to freedom becomes a metaphor for the transition of Poland reflecting a society that had once before come together in solidarity to bring down the communist regime.
Communist Poland also provides the backdrop for Saint (Święty, 2023), which is set during the final, turbulent days of the Polish People’s Republic and shows a nation grappling with its identity, torn between allegiance to Church and State. Mateusz Kościukiewicz (Mug, Bracia) stars as a rookie policeman investigating the theft of a priceless silver sculpture from Gniezno Cathedral in this thrilling mystery; while the multi-award winning Doppelganger (Doppelgänger. Sobowtór, 2023) from Jan Holoubek (Netflix’s The Mire, 25 Years of Innocence) is a stylish psychological thriller rooted in actual events of Cold War Poland starring Jakub Gierszał (Najlepszy), as a tale of espionage unfolds simultaneously on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Elsewhere in the programme, Klaudiusz Chrostowski’s Ultima Thule (2023) features another compelling lead performance from Jakub Gierszał as Bartek, a man struggling to make sense of his life who leaves his family to travel to a remote Scottish island. This striking, minimalist feature debut won the Best Micro Budget Film Award at Gdynia Festival 2023.
Adapted from a novel by Jakub Małecki, Feast of Fire (Święto ognia, 2023) is a heartwarming film about happiness, ambition and secrets as two devoted sisters struggle with very different constraints imposed by their bodies. Balancing laugh-out-loud comedy with deep seated emotional trauma, this is a film that asks us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and encourages us to become better advocates for our desires.
This year’s programme includes two features which use genre to examine issues of identity. Adrian Apanel’s Horror Story (2023) is a smart take on the often absurd rites of passage between adolescence and adulthood that expertly combines black comedy and horror tropes. Jakub Zając (Dawid i Elfy) plays a man who arrives in Warsaw ready to start his adult life in the world of finance but soon finds himself reeling from the brink of one disaster to another.
The Secret of Little Rose (Rózyczka 2, 2023) is the much anticipated sequel to Jan Kidawa-Blonski’s multi-award winning Rose (2010). Once again starring Polish acting greats Magdalena Boczarska (Ostatnia rodzina) and Robert Więckiewicz (In Darkness, Wałęsa: Man of Hope), the film tells the story of a career politician whose life is turned upside down following a terrorist attack which kills her husband.
Lastly, Paweł Maślona’s Scarborn (Kos, 2023) is an action-packed historical tale that won multiple prizes at Gdynia Film Festival 2023 including the Golden Lion, Press Award and Youth Jury Award. Based on real events, it follows the story of General Tadeusz “Kos” Kościuszko (Jacek Braciak) who returns to Poland in 1794 and plans to start an uprising against the Russian occupying forces but on his tail is a Russian cavalry captain (Robert Więckiewicz) who is determined to foil his plans.
The festival’s documentary strand this year consists of three films, two of which are eye-opening films that take viewers to war zones across the world and, through very different lenses, show how the conflicts affect those caught in the cross-fire. In the Rearview (Skąd dokąd, 2023) premiered at Cannes and has won many awards on the festival circuit, including the Grand Jury Award at Sheffield Doc Fest, and tells the stories of the ordinary Ukrainian people that director Maciek Hamela helped evacuate from the country following the Russian invasion. Composed almost entirely of accounts from refugees escaping the war, the film explores the different ways the travellers cope with trauma and their determination to reach a position of safety.
Developed over seven years, Danger Zone (2023) is an unsettling documentary examining a dark side of tourism, where people choose to visit war zones on organised tours at great expense. Taking an observational approach, the film juxtaposes the experiences of these so-called ‘war zone tourists’ and a tour operator with the everyday lives of those who live and fight in countries such as Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria. This is a film with a deep moral question about privilege at its core.
The third offering, Home, is an arthouse documentary that follows…
Three Polish auteurs are represented in the Cinema Classics strand, in a programme that spans 1940s and 1970s Polish film. Krzysztof Kieślowski’s breakthrough masterpiece Camera Buff (Amator, 1979), gained prizes at festivals in Moscow, Chicago and Berlin on its original release and was written for then rising actor Jerzy Stuhr who plays a factory worker whose passion to capture the world on 8mm film, gradually takes over his life, with implications on his freedom. The Story of Sin (Dzieje grzechu, 1975) is an intense, taboo-breaking work from cult director Walerian Borowczyk, that is based on a famous novel by Stefan Żeromski, who co-wrote the screenplay. Presented as a sumptuous melodrama, the film follows the fate of a young woman Ewa (Grażyna Długołęcka) who, after falling for the young impoverished lodger in her family home, ends up in a spiral of seduction and obsession.
And lastly from prolific filmmaker Michał Waszyński, Kinoteka is proud to screen The Great Way (Wielka droga, 1946), the first post-WW2 Polish feature film. Produced by the 2nd Polish Army Corps and shot largely at Cinecittà, it tells the story of a young soldier who is taken to a military hospital where a nurse pretends to be his fiancée, to support his recovery. Secretly reading his journal to understand his story, she learns of his experiences on the battlefield. While a fictionalised narrative, The Great Way uses documentary footage to show the real story of the Polish army led by General Anders, known for their mascot Wojtek the bear.
The festival’s 2024 family screening is The Dog Who Travelled by Train (O psie, który jeździł koleją, 2023), one of the most popular releases in Polish cinemas last year. This heart-warming family story tells the story of Zuzia, a young girl struggling with a heart condition, whose father works on the railways and the arrival of white Swiss shepherd dog called Lampo that transforms her life. Adapted to modern times, the film is based on the adventures of real life dog Lampo in 1950s Italy, who was made famous by Roman Pisarski’s book of the same name.
Techno was a key motif of the raves and underground dance events which took hold in Poland alongside the transformation of the political and economic system in the early 1990s. To celebrate Poland’s rich dance music culture, the festival will host an exciting late-night dance event at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, which will follow a short film programme that explore the links between rave culture and contemporary art in Poland in the 1990s: Twins (1993-5), Forts (Forty, 1996), Normal Subjects (1998), S.L.L. (1999), Address for the Year 1999 (1999), Legs (1999), Steelworks 2000 (2000), CUKT (2001). Following the screening RAVE: Recharge will then welcome partygoers to celebrate rave culture with a charged musical journey spanning across the last three decades of electronic music and led by producers and DJs Catz ‘n Dogz, GW Harrison and Blanka Barbara with this unique celebration of music and film.
A SHORT STORY OF WOMEN
Screening on 8 March for International Women’s Day, A Short Story of Women is comprised of nine short films made by Polish female animators born between the 1970s and 1990s. This short film programme aims to shine a spotlight on various aspects of the female experience and emphasises the substantial role of women in the world of Polish animation, contrasting the difference in subject matter during the times of the People’s Republic of Poland with today. In their films, these female artists focus on topics strongly related to women’s lives and the female body, as well as the physiological and physical changes that occur such as puberty, sexual experiences, pregnancy and ageing. This contemporary wave of films made by women, after years of male dominance in the industry, offers a fresh new perspective on Polish animation. Featuring: Refrains (2007), To Thy Heart (2013), Ab Ovo (2013), The Incredibly Elastic Man (2013), Pussy (2016), III (2018), I’m Here (2020), Lushfilness (2020) and 3 geNARRATIONS (2021).
3RD AI WAKENING
XRossspace is back for Kinoteka 2024, with an exciting new programme at the ICA London, 14-17 February. With the space between the virtual and physical worlds constantly evolving, new technologies are emerging. Cryptic acronyms like VR, AR, AI are often undefined, but they can enable new forms of creation for more engaging storytelling. 3RD AI WAKENING is a carefully-curated program of VR, AR and AI works and events, including VR experience I and I by Marta Klara; AM I AI, an interactive installation by Holycircuit; talks from Prof Joanna Zylinska (King’s College) and Alan Warburton (creator of the first AI-generated documentary); and workshops on augmented reality filters and social VR space creation.
Venues: BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, Southbank Centre, Cine Lumiere, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Phoenix Cinema, Prince Charles Cinema, Rich Mix, Watermans
Explore the full programme at: https://kinoteka.org.uk/
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