Explore the best of the Modern Polish Cinema on BFI Player

Attendees at London Film Festivals since 2000 have had the opportunity to experience some of the diversity of Polish cinema with films from veterans like Andrzej Wajda (Walęsa LFF 2013) and Agnieszaka Holland (Mr Jones LFF 2019, also on BFI PLAYER). Whilst they might still be the most familiar names to UK art house audiences, perceptive viewers will also have seen the rise of significant new Polish talents with works that have gained popularity internationally as well as at home.

Here you can watch some national and international successes of 21st century Polish cinema that did not reach the UK except for special festival screenings. Ones that won multiple awards, auspicious debuts, comedies, dramas and documentaries, all telling strong stories and giving insight into contemporary Polish culture. Now you are not restricted by single, geographic opportunities and can take time to immerse yourself in works that reveal exciting contemporary voices and will surely reveal names to look out for in the future.

The graphic arts have long been important in Polish culture. Impressive posters from top-line artists are on the billboards and animated shorts, largely aimed at adult audiences, have told subversive stories. In this context it is a particular pleasure to offer a limited opportunity to watch the highly original award winning animation Kill It and Leave This Town, a dystopian vision that resonates across borders and reminds us that sometimes tomorrow might be too late.

There are three very different approaches to documentary, from the courageous Oscar nominated personal project The Children of Leningradsky to the more structured reflection of You Have No Idea How Much I Love You and the hybrid immersive form of All These Sleepless Nights which even the director has referred to as a fiction (despite it winning the main Documentary prize at Sundance 2016). Aside from their differences, in each case we learn the stories direct from the subjects themselves.

Some of the directors featured here began their careers in documentary. Robert Glinski’s visceral black and white drama Hi Tereska! reveals these origins and features non professional actors in the leading roles. The complex historical and personal layers of Reverse form documentary graduate Borys Lankosz’ impressive feature debut.

With the death of Krzysztof Krauze in 2014 cinema lost one of its shining lights. His insightful, honest and respectful portraits of life on the margins shine through and are represented here by Savour Square made in collaboration with his work and life partner Joanna Kos-Krauze. Wojciech Smarzowski also examines important social issues and questions of identity in his work, often with controversy: Rose is by turns poignant and brutal as national politics determine the personal lives of those on the German Polish borders after WW2

Strong female talent is also increasingly visible and particularly significant in breaking out of national borders. Now an LFF regular, director Małgorzata Szumowska’s German-Polish co-production 33 Scenes From Life won a prize at Locarno and her Mug (also available on BFI Player) was more popular outside Poland than at home. Like many of her contemporaries the distinctive talent of Agnieszka Smoczyńska developed in Polish TV series before first her The Lure and then Fugue took the festival circuit by storm, both putting a feminist lens on the nature of female identity.

So many perspectives on our changing world…

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