University of Rochester

2011 Polish Film Festival Comes of Age

October 25, 2011

For information on this year's 2012 Polish Film Festival please click here.

Fourteen Films and Polish Cinematic Stars Highlight Six-day Event Nov. 10-15

Welcome to the 2011 Rochester Polish Film Festival – six days of critically acclaimed Polish films in the Little Theatre's largest venue (Theater 1), 240 East Ave. Sponsored by the University of Rochester's Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies, the festival features eight full-length feature films, two director debuts, and four animated shorts and offers everything from comedy and romance to an action thriller.

Headlining the festivities are Polish film director Feliks Falk, a leader of the Polish "cinema of moral anxiety" with more than 20 films to his credit, and actor Andrzej Chyra, one of Poland's most popular and versatile stars. Both will take questions from audiences following the screening of their work.

still from movie

Hailed by the New York Times as "lush and hypnotic," The Mill and the Cross brings to life Pieter Bruegel's masterful 16th century painting, "The Way to the Cross." Using several layers of technology, the movie captures the daily lives and brutal reality of Flanders under Spanish occupation. It will be screened Sunday, Nov 13 at 7 p.m.

still from movie

All That I Love tells the story of a group of young people growing up in Poland in the early 1980s when martial law was imposed by the government and social rebellion against the Communist regime was beginning to rise. The film, Poland's 2010 Oscar candidate in the "best foreign language film" category, will be shown Monday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m.

An undisputed gem in this year's line up is The Mill and the Cross. Hailed by the New York Times as "lush and hypnotic" and by Variety as "an extraordinary imaginative leap," the ambitious undertaking brings to life Pieter Bruegel's masterful 16th century painting, "The Way to the Cross." Using several layers of technology, including blue screen, backdrops and digital footage, the movie captures in sumptuous detail the daily lives and brutal reality of Flanders under Spanish occupation.

For opening night only, Nov. 10, the festival moves to the Dryden Theatre, 900 East Ave., screening one of Feliks Falk's most moving works, Joanna. Set in World War II Kraków during the German occupation, the movie tells the story of the young Polish pianist Joanna who hides a Jewish girl abandoned when German soldiers took her mother away. In her effort to keep the girl's existence secret, Joanna is forced to become the lover of a German officer and then is marked as a traitor by her family and the Polish resistance.

Now in its 14th years, the festival has enjoyed a steady increase in popularity and quality over the years. Initially, the cultural event offered only a handful of films in a lecture hall on the University of Rochester's River Campus. Screenings were plagued with projection breakdowns, and the movies themselves, while culturally important, were underfunded and technologically unsophisticated by American standards, recalls festival organizer Bozenna Sobolewska.

From those modest beginnings, the event has grown into a full-fledged cinematic celebration. Much of the success, says Sobolewska, can be credited to a maturing Polish film industry. For more than a decade, the Polish government has provided national support for the fledgling sector, financing new films, funding training institutes, and even underwriting some of the costs of the Rochester festival for the past four years through the Polish Film Institute and the Polish Filmmakers Association. Additional festival support is provided by the Little Theatre Film Society and the Polish Heritage Society of Rochester.

To secure the best selections, the Rochester festival has also forged partnerships with Polish film festivals in Houston, Toronto, Austin, Seattle, and Los Angeles to help defray the not inconsiderable costs of shipping these colloid masterpieces across the Atlantic. Even in the age of Blu-Ray discs, most of the festival selections are 35 mm films, which are heavy and only available in limited supply.

All films are shown in Polish with English subtitles, and all are screened at the Little Theatre, 240 East Ave., except for opening night at the Dryden Theatre, 900 East Ave. The festivities wrap up with a reception on Nov. 15 in the Little Café, following the showing of Entanglement. Tickets are $8; students and seniors pay $6. Little Theatre Film Society members receive their membership discount. For details, visit or contact the Skalny Center at (585) 275-9898.

A schedule of the films follows:
Thursday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m.
Dryden Theatre, 900 East Ave.

Joanna, 2010, 105 min.
Written and directed by: Feliks Falk
Main cast: Urszula Grabowska, Sara Knothe, Stanisława Celińska, Kinga Preis
Produced by: Akson Studio
Producer: Michał Kwieciński

Set in World War II Kraków during the German occupation, Joanna chronicles the dilemma of the Polish woman Joanna, who gives shelter to a young Jewish girl whose mother was taken away during a round-up. Joanna struggles to keep the girl's existence secret, even to her relatives. To save the child, she has an "affair" with a German officer, becoming a traitor in the eyes of her family and the Polish underground resistance movement.

All other films will be shown at the Little Theatre, Theater 1, 240 East Ave.

Friday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m.

Presidency, Prezydencja, 2011, 3 min, animation
Director: Tomasz Baginski
Choreography: Agustin Egurrola
Music: Adam Skorupa
Tomasz Baginski, an Oscar-nominated computer graphics animator, made this film to promote Poland's presidency of the European Union Council.

Case Unknown (Enen), 2009, 100 min.
Written and directed by: Feliks Falk, in cooperation with Agnieszka Holland
Main cast: Borys Szyc, Grzegorz Wolf, Grzegorz Kwiecień, Magdalena Wałach
Produced by: Wytwórnia Filmów Dokumentalnych i Fabularnych
Producer: Włodzimierz Niderhaus

Konstanty, a doctor in a mental hospital, discovers that the personal details and case history of one of the inmates are missing. The patient is unable to communicate and completely unresponsive. Over the objections of hospital management, Konstanty initiates therapy to bring back the patient's memory and identity. At the same time, he carries out a private investigation to find out who locked this man in the mental hospital and why his files were removed.
Following the screening, Feliks Falk will take questions from the audience.

Saturday, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m.

A Wonderful Summer (Cudowne Lato), 2010, 83 min.
Director: Ryszard Brylski
Screenwriters: Agata Nowak, Wojciech Lepianka, Ryszard Brylski
Main cast: Helena Sujecka, Cezary Łukaszewicz, Antoni Pawlicki, Katarzyna Figura, Jerzy Trela
Produced by: Opus Film
Producers: Piotr Dzięcioł, Łukasz Dzięcioł

A Wonderful Summer is a dark romantic comedy set against the world of funeral services, where the real world mixes with the mystical beyond. The lead character, Kitka, has a peculiar gift: she can communicate with the ghost of her dead mother. Her mother visits her on a mission to make sure her daughter does not miss out on true love. The ghost will leave only when Kitka makes the right choice.

Saturday, Nov. 12, 8:45 p.m.

Pipetta, Pipeta, 2010, 9 min., animation
Directors: Rafal Sankiewicz and Wojciech Sankiewicz
Animation: Wojciech Sankiewicz, Rafał Terlecki, Jacek Olejnik

This episode of PIPETTA, a popular cult science program, follows Professor and Doctor of Inanimate Nature Metaphysics Mieczysław Kozlak-Czarnkowski as he tries to shed new light on the problem of the end of human civilization.

Erratum 2010, 95 min.
Written and directed by: Marek Lechki
Main cast: Tomasz Kot, Ryszard Kotys, Tomasz Radawiec, Dorota Pomykała
Produced by: Harmony Film Production
Producer: Marek Lechki

When Michał travels to his hometown on business, circumstances force him to extend his stay, turning a simple work trip into an emotional journey back to a life he had long forgotten. Erratum is the winner of major awards at many international film festivals, including Warsaw, Chicago, Gdynia, Goeteborg, Thessaloniki, Denver, Mar Del Plata, Leeds, and Dublin.

Sunday, Nov. 13, 3 p.m.

Talk to Him, Porozmawiaj z Nim, 2010, 7 min., animation
Written, shot, and directed by: Agata Prętka

A mind-bending animated look at how life can become a combination of letters and numbers.

The Winner (Wygrany), Poland-USA, 2011, 110 min.
Written and directed by: Wiesław Saniewski
Main cast: Paweł Szajda, Janusz Gajos, Grażyna Barszczewska, Wojciech Pszoniak
Produced by: Saco Films, Ltd.
Producer: Grażyna Molska

World-famous young Polish-American pianist Oliver (Paweł Szajda,) faces a 200,000 euro debt after breaking his contract for a European tour. To pay off the fine, he teams up with Frank (Janusz Gajos,), a retired math teacher with a rare talent for betting on horses and together they try to score the Big Win. The world of racing brings a new romance to the pianist, still struggling after a broken marriage.

Sunday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m.

Look at Me, Popatrz na mnie, 2011, 30 min.
Directed by: Katarzyna Jungowska
Principal Cast: Maciej Stuhr, Iza Kuna, Justyna Grzybek
Producer: SFP - Studio Munka
Look at me is an intriguing and artistically constructed story about the search for emotion in today's world and the temptations of everyday life.

The Mill and The Cross (Młyn i Krzyż), Poland-Sweden, 2010, 85 min.
Director: Lech Majewski
Screenwrites: Michael Francis Gibson, Lech Majewski
Directors of photography: Lech majewski, Adam Sikora
Main Cast: Rutger Hauer, Michael York, Charlotte Rampling, Joanna Litwin, Dorota Lis, Emilia Czartoryska
Produced by: Angelus Silesius
Producer: Lech Majewski

What would it be like to step inside a great work of art, have it come alive around you, and even observe the artist as he sketches the very reality you are experiencing? Lech Majewski brings to life Pieter Bruegel's masterpiece, The Way to Calvary, the story of the crucifixion, set in Flanders under brutal Spanish occupation in the year 1564. From among the more than five hundred figures that fill Bruegel's remarkable canvas, The Mill and The Cross focuses on a dozen characters whose life stories unfold and intertwine in a panoramic landscape populated by villagers and red-caped horsemen. Among them are Bruegel himself (played by Rutger Hauer), his friend and art collector Nicholas Jonghelinck (Michael York), and the Virgin Mary (Charlotte Rampling). One of today's most adventurous and inspired artists and filmmakers, Lech Majewski translates The Way to Calvary into cinema, inviting the viewer to live inside the aesthetic universe of the painting as we watch it being created.

Monday, Nov. 14, 7 p.m.

Drawn from Memory, Portret z Pamięci, 2010, 30 min.
Directed by: Marcin Bortkiewicz
Cast: Irena Jun, Małgorzata Zajączkowska, Marek Kantyka
Producer: SFP - Studio Munka
As a family care for their grandmother, who is stricken by Alzheimer's, Marek, her grandson, documents their struggles with his video camera.

All that I Love (Wszystko co Kocham) 2009, 95 min.
Written and directed by: Jacek Borcuch
Main cast: Mateusz Kościukiewicz, Olga Frycz, Andrzej Chyra, Jakub Gierszał
Produced by: Prasa i Film
Producers: Jan Dworak, Kamila Polit, Renata Czarnkowska-Listoś

All That I Love tells the story of a group of young people growing up in Poland in the early 1980s when martial law was imposed by the government and social rebellion against the Communist regime was beginning to rise. It's a time of emotional discovery set against the background of historical events. The film is a sentimental trip back to the days of the director's youth. "There's nothing made up in there. It's the story of my neighborhood, exactly as it happened," says Jacek Borcuch. All That I Love, Poland's 2010 Oscar candidate in the "best foreign language film" category, has been shown at many international festivals, including Sundance (where it was the first Polish film to qualify for the main competition), Rotterdam, Brussels, Setúbal in Portugal, Los Angeles, and New York.
Following the screening of this film, actor Andrzey Chyra will take questions from the audience.

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m.

My Grandmother's Dog, Pies Mojej Babci, 2011, 14 min., animation
Directed and produced by: Mikołaj Birek
A tale of loss and search, told from the perspective of a dog.

Entanglement (Uwikłanie), 2011, 125 min.
Director: Jacek Bromski
Screenwriters: Jacek Bromski, Juliusz Machulski, based on the novel by Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Main cast: Maja Ostaszewski, Marek Bukowski, Olgierd Łukaszewicz, Krzysztof Globisz, Andrzej Seweryn
Produced by: ZEBRA Film Studio
Producer: Juliusz Machulski

Entanglement is an action thriller that speaks openly about the things that people do not even want to whisper about: What has to happen for an ordinary person to become a killer? Can you kill someone in a half-hypnotic trance and not remember the next day? Cynical police officer Smolar (Marek Bukowski) and stubborn prosecutor Szacka (Maja Ostaszewska) come from two different worlds but are bound together by a passionate past. Although poles apart, they combine their skills to solve the mystery of a murder. Carrying out the most difficult investigation in their careers, the pair come across stories that for years were supposed to be legends, but surprisingly may be true.
Following the screening of this film, the festival wraps up with a reception in the Little Café.

About the Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies
Established through a grant from the Louis Skalny Foundation, the Center is an academic meeting place for teaching and research on Central Europe, with a special focus on Poland. At the University, the Center supports post-doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate research, brings in visiting faculty, and offers Polish language courses. For the wider community, the Center sponsors a lecture and artist series, and organizes the annual Polish Film Festival.