Festival is serious about Poland’s booming cinema
November 9, 2008
By Bill Stamets
Of the city’s festivals with a national focus, the Polish Film Festival in
America might be the most serious about cinema. Just look at the credits for
the 76 features, documentaries and shorts in this year’s online schedule. For
the cinephile, this 20-year-old event not only lists the director of each film,
but also names the screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, art director and composer.
“The Polish film industry is blossoming right now,” says Christopher
Kamyszew, the festival’s founder and honorary chairman. “More films
are being produced and more have the ambition to do well in the local movie
theater in Poland.” That translates into more comedies. Kamyszew is
bringing over “Lejdis,” Poland’s hit comedy of the year.
20th POLISH FILM FESTIVAL IN AMERICA
When: Through Nov. 23
Where: Society for Arts’ Gallery Theatre (1112 N. Milwaukee), Copernicus
Center (5216 W. Lawrence), Facets Cinematheque (1517 W. Fullerton), Beverly
Arts Center (2407 W. 111th St.) and the Skokie Theatre (7924 Lincoln, Skokie)
Tickets: $13 features; $10 documentary programs. Discounts for students
and seniors, and for retrospective and sidebar screenings. $50 festival
pass for one person for five screenings (except opening, closing and special
screenings). Available at www.pf famerica.com, Polish bookstores and six
Palomar travel agency offices.
Phone: (773) 486-9612
More than 50 directors, producers and actors will fly in to speak at screenings.
LOT Polish Airlines is one of the sponsors of the non-profit festival.
expanded this year’s programming by adding a new series and a new venue: Seven
films appear in “Jewish Subjects in Polish Film” at the Skokie Theatre.
Two other series are retrospectives. “Film Music of Henryk Wars”
offers four films scored by this Polish composer between 1937 and 1939. “A
Retrospective of Jerzy Kawalerowicz” showcases five features, made between
1959 and 1989 by this Polish auteur.
“European Nights” screens five new films from Russia and Hungary.
“Irony of Fate, the Sequel” by Timur Bekmambetow is a holiday comedy
with an antic style that is far from the slick action of “Wanted,”
his recent feature partly shot in Berwyn, Broadview and Chicago. Russian director
Sergei Bodrov is represented by “Mongol.”
Genghis Khan and Napoleon Bonaparte turn up in fest dramas, as does the first
president elected — and assassinated — in the Polish Republic. The Holocaust
is depicted in documentaries about Warsaw, Lodz and Wola. World War II figures
profiled include Szmul Zygielbojm, Jozef Beck, Stanislaw Sosabowski and Irena
“Po- Lin” uses home movies of Jewish Poles in various towns and villages.
Residents who emigrated and then returned with movie cameras filmed their relatives
and former neighbors in the 1930s. I only wish filmmaker Jolanta Dylewska included
some background on these amateur filmmakers. “Photographer,” a documentary
made in 1998 by Dariusz Jablonski, looks at the Lodz ghetto through the color
slides shot by a Nazi camera buff.
A fictional version of World War II espionage is offered by “The Secret
of Code Fortress,” a 13-episode Polish Television series to be shown in
two marathon screenings. American and Russian agents try to decode messages
about an underground lab in Lower Silesia where Nazis are building an atom bomb.
For a real case of Cold War espionage, check out the fest’s closing-night film
“War Games” (7 p.m. Nov. 23, Pickwick Theatre). Director Dariusaz
Jablonski risks sabotaging his investigatory biopic with first-person histrionics
and video game visuals, but this is an intriguing portrait of Col. Ryszard Kuklinski.
For nine years this Polish military officer operated as a spy for the CIA. He
saw himself as a patriot defending Poland against Soviet plans to sacrifice
Poland in a land war with Western Europe. Nor could he abide Soviet attacks
on the Solidarity Movement. Jablonski gets high access to the spy’s retired
U.S. handlers, as well as ex-colleagues.
Other films are more speculative. “Parade of Victors” by Grzegorz
Braun and Robert Kaczmarek is billed as an expose of the Soviet Union’s previously
unreported role in triggering World War II. “The Reflecting Pool”
is drama purporting to uncover a U.S. conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks. Filmmaker
Jarek Kupsc plays a fictional reporter who gets a video that contradicts the
Government agendas to revise the historical record is key in “Katyn”
(7:30 p.m. Sunday, Pickwick; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20, Beverly Arts Center). This masterful
ensemble epic was Poland’s entry for last year’s Oscar for best foreign language
film. Director Andrzej Wajda was 13 in 1939 when his calvary officer father
was executed in the Katyn woods, along with 12,000 other Polish military officers,
intellectuals, factory owners, priests and political prisoners. Wajda’s drama
incorporates into his plot the propaganda films made by Nazis and Soviets to
assign blame for the mass executions.
For lighter fare, there’s the Polish entry for this year’s Oscar for best foreign
language film. “Tricks” (7 p.m. Nov. 19, Facets) is writer-director
Andrzej Jakimowski’s enchanting tale of a 6-year-old boy and his 17-year-old
sister improvising with magic. Their mission is to find out if a man is their
long-lost father. Everything here clicks: the directing, writing, shooting,
editing, acting and music. And the fest lets you know who did it all.
Bill Stamets is a local free-lance writer and reviewer.