South African art house cinema chain Cinema Nouveau, in association with the Polish Embassy and FilmGramm Foundation, presents this year’s Polish Film Festival which will screen five films from up and coming Polish directors from 19 November to 4 December.
The films are: the musical documentary Beats of Freedom (directed by Leszek Gnoinski and Wojciech S³ota); the historical drama Black Thursday (directed by Antoni Krauze); the noir thriller / black comedy Reverse (directed by Borys Lankosz); the thriller The Dark House (directed by Wojciech Smarzowski); and the animated thriller, The Suicide Room (directed by Jan Komasa).
Screenings take place at the following cinemas: Pretoria Brooklyn Cinema Nouveau (19 and 20 November), Johannesburg Rosebank Cinema Nouveau (26 and 27 November) and Cape Town Cavendish Cinema Nouveau (3 and 4 December). All screenings are free of charge.
For decades Polish directors were at the forefront of world cinema with such names as Krzysztof Kieslowski, Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polanski, Jerzy Skolimowski or Jerzy Hass-honoured with multiple awards including Oscars, prestigious Cannes, Berlinale and Venice prizes. Functioning in the Communist era they managed to push the boundaries of cinema and develop revolutionary ways of telling stories.
The struggle for freedom in Poland had much in common with what was taking place in South Africa. The enemy was different, but the goals were the same.
In an attempt to bring South Africa closer to Poland Cinema Nouveau presents two modern movies which show this connection. One of them, Beats of Freedom, deals with the power of music, its meaning as a powerful weapon of opposition. The other, Black Thursday, shows a traumatic and historically symbolic tragedy, which helped shape the struggle for freedom, much like the Soweto Uprising in South Africa.
Unfortunately, since the fall of the Berlin wall, Polish Cinema has struggled to find a new and important voice with which to tell the world about the brave new journey that the former communist state had embarked on. For years new directorial talents were few and far between, while worthy and memorable movies were almost non-existent.
However the landscape of Polish Cinema is once again changing and a whole new generation of directors are stamping their presence not only in Poland but globally. This is a new distinct voice which manages to capture the soul of this new ‘capitalist’ Poland still knee-deep in the remnants of the old system.
Beats of Freedom is an inspiring and important film, with an energetic account of the fall of communism, and the rise of music as a powerful source of creativity to combat oppression. The directors Wojciech S³ota and Leszek Gnoinski crafted an impressive film incorporating great use of archival material, sound, music, and new interviews. Reminding us of the recent political events, this film speaks to a contemporary audience regardless of age, or background, and that music can be more than a product.
Black Thursday is a reconstruction of the tragic events that took place on Thursday 17 December 1970 in Gdynia. The film presents the true story of a family of a shipyard worker Brunon Drywa who is shot by the militia on his way to work. The film shows the street demonstrations of workers and the procession which was headed by people who carried the body of the murdered Zbigniew Godlewski on the door. The film also illustrates the brutal pacification of the demonstrators made by the army divisions and militia, in result of which a total of 18 people were killed and hundreds were injured. AWARDS: Montreal World Film Festival (2010) – Fipresci Award
Reverse is a darkly comic story about three women, set in both the present and in 1950s Warsaw. The main character is Sabina, a quiet, shy woman who has just turned 30. Unfortunately, she lacks a man in her life. Her mother (Polish icon Krystyna Janda) tries at all costs to find her daughter some good potential husband candidates. Meanwhile, Sabina’s grandmother, an eccentric lady with a sharp tongue from whom no secret can be concealed, tries to control the situation. Successive admirers arrive at the pre-war tenement where the women live, but Sabina finds none of them attractive. One day, in dramatic circumstances, Sabina meets Bronislaw, a young man with the good looks of a peasant movie star. He’s vulgar, yet Sabina becomes passionate about him. Bronislaw’s presence launches a series of surprising events that will forever change the lives of three ladies. AWARDS: Gdynia Polish Film Festival (2009) – 13 awards, including Best Movie; Seattle International Film Feature – Best First Feature
The Dark House has been called the “Polish Fargo” but this film is darker and more twisted than anything the Coen Brothers have dreamed up. Set in Communist Poland during the Fall of 1978, this is a drama with pitch black humor. An accidental traveler stops and stays overnight at a farm house in a remote rural area. Soon he and his hosts, a farmer and his wife, become good friends. The evening ends in tragedy. Simultaneously, the story of a police investigation into these tragic events is unfolding, as officers attempt to solve the mystery of what happened on that night. For some of the investigators, uncovering the truth is not as important as hiding their own secrets. AWARDS: Warsaw Film Festival (2009) – Audience Award, Gdynia Polish Film Festival (2009) – four awards, including Best Director
The Suicide Room premiered this year to rave reviews at the Berlinale. Dominik is a seemingly ordinary teenage boy. He has many friends, dates the most beautiful girl in a school, rich parents, money to spare, expensive gadgets and is always invited to parties. However one kiss changes everything… “She’ has trapped him inside the internet. “She’ is intriguing, dangerous, crafty. “She’ has introduced him into “the suicide room”, a place from which there is no escape. Dominik, trapped within his own feelings, caught in a deadly intrigue, slowly loses touch with what is the most valuable in life…AWARDS: Gdynia Polish Film Festival (2011) – seven awards, including Silver Lion.