Curators

Lead text by Dorota Paciarelli
Program Director of the festival, curator of Re:interpretations section

FUNNY STORIES

When was the last time when you laughed and what did you laugh at? There was not much to laugh about during last year’s festival screenings at Sokołowsko Film Festival Hommage à Kieślowski, but it was not laughter that we aimed at. Such films as Death in Sarajevo by Danis Tanović. Fuocoammare by Gianfranco Rosi, No End by Krzysztof Kieślowski, I, Olga Hepnarová or The Lawyers – A German Story, despite their complexity, were received with acclaim, although, in the context of difficult subjects, I should write: they moved us and opened our eyes to suffering and brotherhood. They made me feel sad that the European history of freedom, equality and brotherhood is coming to an end. Judging from the discussions that followed, the young audience felt the need for change and expressed refusal to build fences and walls in Europe. Perhaps it is true that there is something magical about Sokołowsko and the people who come year after year and participate in the events organised by IN SITU Contemporary Art Foundation?

Last autumn, during my walks in a park along the lane leading to the former Dr Brehmer sanatorium and Zdrowie cinema, my attention was caught by a piece of paper fixed to the lantern, reading “Whoever you are – I wish you well”. I like this message. The same message noticed Krzysztof Piesiewicz on the first day of the festival on his way to a meeting with the audience and a discussion with his German colleague Nicolas Becker, with whom we talked about the significance of law and its functioning in the “years of lead” of the 1980s, being a lawyer and a defender in political trials and about the role of culture in life.

When the festival was over, I thought that in 2017 I want to bring back two films written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieślowski, at some point in time wrongly received by a part of the film circles and some film critics. A comment on its reception, humorous and typical for Kieślowski: they pinched me a bit, but not too much. These two films are Three Colours: White (1994) and Dekalog: Ten (1988/1989). I also immediately recalled Reverted, a film by Kazimierz Kutz made in 1994 for TV and shown in cinemas. I thought that Reverted, watched together with White, may tell something important to the young audiences who do not remember the times of Solidarity and the beginnings of Polish capitalism, something about Poland from that era, their parents and grandparents; that these two films, with marvellous creations of Zbigniew Zamachowski, talking about people in conflict with their own conscience, facing loss of love, trust, sense of brotherhood, personal integrity, combined with currently trendy irony and humour, are invitation to a multigenerational conversation and to experience strong emotions. The humour of these films, their bitter truth and irony, as well as self-irony of their authors, the use of mockery as a form of protest, and, last but not least, unforgettable and moving acting interpretations by Zbigniew Zamachowski set out an interesting direction for the quest of this year’s edition of the festival. A mini retrospective of films starring Zbyszek Zamachowski (there are four) is our expression of gratitude for his personality, humour, kindness and artistic courage, for the art of creating seemingly common characters, who rise above their own limitations in unusual circumstances. On the one hand, characters that are typically Polish, “our own”, on the other – sometimes endearingly clumsy, acted out as if Zamachowski’s brother or teacher was Charlie Chaplin, to whom the actor is often compared by Polish and international critics. A character of a Polish hairdresser, a misfit bearing a bizarre name Karol Karol, full of complexes in encounters with elegant French women and shy in contact with women in general in White, adventures of Tomasz Siwek, a simple worker at a Silesian power station, who believes in love and human kindness in Reversed and Artur, who does not understand “why people desire to possess something so much” in Dekalog: Ten – they all bring us to laughter through tears and, subtly supported by masterful staging of Kutz and Kieślowski, camera work, music and editing, bring this mysterious catharsis, described by medical professor Andrzej Szczeklik in his book Katharsis. O uzdrowicielskiej mocy natury i sztuki (Catharsis. The healing Power of Nature and Art).

Without our local and regional partners, volunteers and all people of good will involved in festival service and technical assistance, without the trust of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s family or solidarity of his friends, support from colleagues at such festivals as Off Cinema in Poznań, Okiem Młodych in Świdnica, without scientific and conceptual assistance from film and cultural experts at Adam Mickiewicz festival, professor Mikołaj Jazdon, Piotr Pławuszewski, Rafał Koschany, or kindness of Stanisław Zawiśliński – the initiator of live Krzysztof Kieślowski Archive, run by In Situ Foundation, without the trust or proven help from the local authorities of Sokołowsko, its residents, the mayor of Mieroszów and the president of Wałbrzych and many other people, including our families and friends, the 7th edition of Sokołowsko Film Festival Hommage à Kieślowski would not take place. It is thanks to them and the audience that for four days the festival is going to become a celebration of film at ease, without red carpets, long speeches or galas, that will approach seriousness of life, words of wisdom from manuals on optimisation of the sphere of sex, work, image or success with a pinch of salt and distance.

What exactly is the art of irony? For Milan Kundera, every novel is ironic art, but this art is difficult to define. Its truth is hidden, unspoken and actually unspeakable. According to Kundera, irony irritates. Not because it is mocking or assailing, but because it deprives us of certainty, revealing the world’s ambiguity. Nothing is more ambiguous, more impenetrable thank irony, writes Leonardo Sciascia, an Italian writer and expert in irony used by mafia bosses, those in white collars and in Armani suits, those from the upper classes and from the very bottom. Visible in all “funny stories”, present during this year’s festival in the sections Hommage à Kieślowski: Re:interpretations and No Fiction!, the understatement of truth, hiding it with the art of irony and self-irony aims at avoiding moralising approach, so despised by contemporary audience, and leaving the viewers alone with questions on who actually is right in that particular story, who is the “pathetic”one,”naive” or the “modern”one. Does national humour exist in film? Influenced by place of origin and culture in which we have been raised, a sense of humour specific for particular environment or region? And was Ionesco right to claim that Euopean history of laughter is reaching its end? Is there a Christian sense of humour? What can you laugh at, and at what, according to contemporary social and cultural norms, you should not?

Films, as long as their authors are sensitive to what surrounds them and able to notice what is hidden, are a certain kind of a seismograph. They record imperceptible changes that evade scientific analyses and political prognoses occurring in us, our communities and societies. Such films we were searching for and have found them for you. There was a lot of them, but for different reasons we cannot show them all. Those that you will see this year confirm the good condition of Polish and European cinema and prove the existence of an interesting young generation of Polish, Italian and Czech directors.

The selection is a subjective decision made according to our inner imperative which is: we show what we like and is worth a conversation. We show this with hope that Krzysztof Kieślowski would like it too if he was sitting in the cinema with us, with memory and respect to him, his attitude towards people, his occupation and artistic oeuvre that he has left behind for us. We show what we like, believing that the art of film existed, exist and will exist forever. Not only do we screen films made by Krzysztof Kieślowski, but also by his colleagues, teachers and filmmakers that influenced him at different times. We do this, convinced that time cannot obscure the light that illuminates them. We show films by young generation that have found – judging from the films – their own active way of taking the world lightly.

During this year’s discussions with invited directors, screenwriters and actors we will talk about their understanding of a film story, what they consider as art of irony and what humour in film and life consists in. Why is it so difficult to make a good comedy, while a “gloomy” social drama is easier to write? How does an actor develop comical effects in a scene? And where – according to our guests – is the thin line between irony, humour or tender cheerfulness and a wrongful cackle, derision or contempt that aim at killing everything that is different, special, distinct, individual or unique about a human being, namely – human Beauty. “I profess a nowadays unfashionable faith, the faith in a man” – once confessed the director of A Short Film About Killing and Blind Chance. Presenting films about suffering, emptiness of uniformed life of a so-called modern man and destructive power of nationalism that stands against Christian values, we follow this message. Examples of such feature films include a Hungarian drama On Body and Soul directed by Ildikó Enyedi (Golden Bear at Berlinale 2017) presented in Sokołowsko before it hits Polish cinemas; Serbian Herd by Nikola Kojo with typical Balkan humour mocking show business, media and politics; Journey to Rome, a debut film by Polish director Tomasz Mielnik and Czech screenwriter Vít Poláček; Lost in Munich, a Czech production touching upon the subject of Czech national trauma (the Munich Agreement) directed by Petr Zelenka, one of the creators of European cinema “with a pinch of salt”, surprising with virtuosity and sophistication of his narrative forms. Through conversations with invited directors and screenwriters, and – in the case of films starring Zbyszek Zamachowski – with him, Kazimierz Kutz and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, we will try to learn about their perception of the art of irony and humour, what makes them laugh in the cinema, how they remember Krzysztof Kieślowski, about their own film work and if perhaps they would play their roles or tell their stories differently now. We will also raise subjects at the intersection of science and culture, for example during a public debate organised in collaboration with Berlin-based Krzysztof Kieślowski Forum e.V. association supporting culture and cultural education, as well as during discussions accompanying the screenings. Through our scientific collaboration with Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, we hope to incite young people’s enthusiasm for attentive reception of films, meeting with sociology of film and media, film studies, psychology and cultural studies. Tomasz Kozłowski, a young cultural sociologist, columnist of, i.a., “Odra” magazine and the head of Education and New Media Department at Collegium Da Vinci in Poznań will share his observations on the results of research into irony and humour as forms of protest, as well as on the causes and effects of attempts to “escape the clutches of happyterrorism in times of hypercapitalism”. Rafał Koschany, a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, the author of recently reissued book Przypadek. Kategoria egzystencjalna i artystyczna w literaturze i filmie (Coincidence. Existential and Artistic Category in Literature and Film) and a co-moderator of festival meetings will share his thoughts on (semantic) meaning of body in film and culture, on physical impact that films have on our body and what happens to us when we watch them.

We are especially happy about the presence of Czech cinema at this year’s festival. Older viewers remember well the times of unreal socialism and a funny saying, uttered with a sigh when attempts to arrange something in public offices were getting complicated to the point of absurdity or when nobody was able to understand lengthy disquisitions of the secretary of the party or neighbours arguing in the backyard: “Czech film, nobody knows anything”. Nowadays, what every expert at the Polish Film Institute and every second Polish producer longing for cinema made for people wishes for is Czech humour in Polish cinema. Does “this special thing” about Czech cinema that puts a smile on the faces of the viewers and perhaps also arouses some jealousy consist in the fact that Czech authors are able to make us laugh and tell stories with warm voice, without being pretentious or tense, while “our domestic” creators are not? What impact do cultural models, art, culture, historical experience of war have on Czech view of the world in film? Thanks to a joint project and partner collaboration between Hommage à Kieślowski festival, CFF, an association of Czech film clubs, and with our Czech friend Petr Vlček, a Polish scholar and film expert who loves Polish cinema as much as we do in Sokołowsko – faithfully and immensely – Czech cinema will be represented, alongside Lost in Munich by Petr Zelenka and Journey to Rome, a comedy by Tomasz Mielnik (a graduate of FAMU in Prague), by such films as Špina (Filthy), a cinema comedy directed by Tereza Nvotová, and Normal Autistic Film, an award-winning documentary by Miroslav Janek.

Kundera quotes Nikolai Gogol: “The longer and more carefully we look at a funny story, the sadder it becomes”. Few Austrian directors and comedians can convey this expression better than Josef Heider, an Austrian film star, author of satirical cabaret texts and a melancholic-perfectionist who, in his film Wilde Maus, shown in the main competition at Berlinale 2017, plays an intellectual in distress, a man in his forties on the verge of a nervous breakdown, ready for everything except for abandoning his illusions about himself, except for the truth. Pissed off at the society, young generation, his boss at editorial board of a magazine where for years he has been writing a music column, together with his new friend, with whom he probably would not have anything to say otherwise, he is planning a radical, absurd and courageous step, but will he make it?

The 7th edition of Sokołowsko Film Festival Hommage à Kieślowski will let the audience break from the hardships of everyday life and encounter the Other. Above all, however, it is a celebration of film art and tribute paid to its creators, who, by entertaining us (after all, cinema is entertainment, as Kieślowiski used to say), pump our brain with oxygen.

Light flashes in Zdrowie Cinema-theatre (we are healing with film!) and bluish afterglow above the tree branches in the park, with incredible scenery of the ruins of the former Dr Brehmer sanatorium, signify a certain rite of passage to the viewers gathered in front of the screen. It is the moment when each of us, at our own request, departs from the real world and enters the sphere of imagination, from created or observed reality into the area of illusion and what is commonly called magic of cinema. It is a state comparable to a dream or a daydream. Elicited with light.sound, movement, actor’s gesture, smooth or sharp editing and rhythm of music, the images create these “fairy tales for adults”, as Kieślowski used to humorously call his films, which for a short period of time organise our world or, on the contrary, destroy common habits and provide food for thought. Thematic diversity, abundance of rhythms and styles of presented productions make a multithreaded story about life and its transience, about suffering and its meaning.

In mythologies and religions around the world, number seven accompanying Hommage à Kieślowski was considered as a symbol of relation between time and space, entity and complement. It was supposed to provide security, bring peace and respite. Unlike the ill-fated thirteen, it is recognised as a lucky number, especially for people born in Cancer, like Zbigniew Zamachowski, or Pisces. Rainbow in the sky, formed as a result of refraction of light under a particular angle in water droplets, is made up of seven colours. According to Isaac Newton, seven colours of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, create a rainbow arc – a symbol of tolerance and hope. Without the indigo colour, it is an international symbol and a flag of LGBT movement. The films screened at this year’s festival form a rainbow arc too. An arc of tolerance and openness that connects Sokołowsko with Europe and with filmgoers from all over the world.

Funny stories do not have to be trivial. You will see this yourselves, visiting Sokołowsko Film Festival Hommage à Kieślowski, to which, on behalf of the organisers, authors of presented films, curators of film sections and our institutional partners I cordially invite you!

Dorota Paciarelli
Program Director of the Festival

(C) Dorota Paciarelli, 18.07.2017. All publications and use of the text require the prior consent of its author. The right to make cuts and alterations in the text reserved.
Contact: dorotapaciarelli@outlook.com

Lead text by Piotr Pławuszewski

Curator of No Fiction! documentary section

INTENSE LIFE SPACE

Documentaries: it is them that constitute the “No Fiction!” section of this year’s edition of Hommage à Kieślowski festival. To put it simply: we invite the audience to encounter cinema pretty much unrivalled in illustrating complexities of life and its ambiguity, evading simple interpretations and scripted schemes. Besides, proposed titles prove that artistic success of a film depends mainly on a well-thought concept of its content (what do I want to talk about?) and its implementation (how do I want to talk?). A good documentary – which, despite sounding obvious, is still worth reminding – always aims at a harmonious combination of these two layers. The Polish part of “No Fiction!” section is a great example of this. I am talking here about documentaries very diverse in their methods of observing reality and in the search of subjects worth switching on the camera. There are, however, certain common parts besides this variety. Two aspects are clear: mentioned films are connected both by the similar, recent year of their premières (with one exception, all of them are from 2016-17) and the young age of their authors. Much more importantly, though, they all circle around areas in which life gains (for different reasons) a particular intensity, revealed before the gaze of a patient, curious camera. “It is only when you describe something, that you can start thinking about it” – claimed Krzysztof Kieślowski. Presented documentaries are such descriptions – providing the audience with an impulse to carefully examine their own life spaces, even those most prosaic and ordinary ones.

Home in the title of the film by Filip Jacobson, run by two enterprising sisters, offers shelter to men of tangled biographies and lives difficult to get back on track. There is always a place for a kind word, yet no leniency is shown to (usually destructive) habits. Education directed by Emi Buchwald hides a rich seam of unconstrained comedy, but, above all, it is a story of how difficult, challenging questions on life, prompted by natural curiosity, appear in young minds within the four walls of their family homes. The same interior – illustrated in Close Ties by Zofia Kowalewska – in the context of the elderly couple is sets a background for painful, but somehow cleansing confrontations with bitter past, and for the main character in Mrs. Rena of Angels by Aleksandra Folczak, it constitutes a space for intense existence (arm in arm with her husband and an iguana) in the shadow of her illness. Yet another kind of space is a cultural centre in Aleksandrów Kujawski, whose residents are encouraged (through a competition) to creatively present their “patriotic attitudes”, which results in a marvellous – avoiding the clichés of TV and documentary features – insight in the micro-world of sincere emotions and social attitudes towards Poland’s Independence Day. If we limit the space to ….a table, we get Three Conversations on Life by Julia Staniszewska, a film in which important and most crucial matters are discussed between mother and daughter who courageously look each other in the eyes. “When will a man overcome interpersonal space?” – the question, raised by Stanisław Jerzy Lec appropriately sets the right direction for a conversation on Polish documentary film at Hommage à Kieślowski 2017. Walls, floor, ceiling, bed, chairs and tables are merely decorations. For young directors, the most important element of space remains a human being – always in relation to another person. An age-old subject, still inexhaustible in its variety.

The section is complemented (or, perhaps better put: enriched) by foreign productions. Czech cinema (already strongly present in Sokołowsko at past editions of the festival) is represented by Normal Autistic Film by Miroslav Janek, an unpretentious portrait of a group of young people with Asperger syndrome. The director wishes neither to educate, nor to play with emotions. Instead, he prefers to give the floor to his characters, considering this as the best way to reach their complex and at the same time fascinating inner selves. There are two representatives of Italian cinema. In Crazy for Football: The Craziest World Cup, Volfango De Biasi observes patients mental health departments – he does this, however, beyond the hospital walls. His protagonists are members of a football team, going to Japan for an international tournament. A film about sport? Not necessarily, since what becomes most important is the possibility to prove your worth or, however banal it may sound, the joy of acting in a group, and this has been captured by the camera lens. Different kind of watching experience provides Liberami by Federica Di Giacomo – a great example of cinema that approaches a controversial subject (exorcisms), first and foremost, with an observer’s curiosity. Following the actions of father Cataldo and the people seeking his help, we do not are not met with a horror film genre but with difficult-to-comprehend scenes of “ordinary life”.

Summing up, the films we have invited to this year’s edition of Hommage à Kieślowski provide an occasion to immerse ourselves in spaces that are either unknown (a documentary can be a good guide) or theoretically known too well to expect them to surprise us (and sometimes all you need for that is a non-obvious viewing angle). Both variants challenge the viewers, especially the ones who expect cinema to inspire them, and not to provide answers. “There is nothing worse for a documentary film-maker than conclusions drawn too soon” – claimed Kazimierz Karabasz, the classic author of Polish documentary films. We fully subscribe to this, so may the conclusions at “No Fiction!” section be drawn after screenings, after discussions with invited artists, on further consideration.

Piotr Pławuszewski © 13.07.2017
Publication of the text requires prior consent of the author.

Lead text by Mikołaj Jazdon

Curator of Hommage à Kieślowski section

WITH A PINCH OF SALT

In 1963, in his essay The Anatomy of the Gag, Václav Havel wrote: “The sense of the absurd, the ability to defamiliarize, the absurd humour – those are the possible routes by which the contemporary man achieves catharsis; they are possibly the only ways of “cleansing” him adequate to the world in which he lives.” Can this statement have anything to do with films by Kieślowski? Is there a place for humour in them? And if it is possible to find some “thread of humour”, does it also coil around films by other authors, related to the works by the director of Personnel (1975)? These and similar questions we wish to focus on during this year’s film screenings in the section devoted to the body of work by Kieślowski himself and the authors whose films are, in different ways, “linked” to the patron of our festival.

Taking the world with a pinch of salt refers here, above all, to three films starring Zbigniew Zamachowski. Dekalog: Ten (1988/89), a story of a daemon of greed, can already be watched as a prelude to the image of “brand new times” (coming after 1989), depicted by Krzysztof Kieślowski and his co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz in White (1993). It is worth looking at this film as a special variation on the subject of Modern Times (1936) by Chaplin, only made in Poland at the end of the century. Allusions to the character of Charlie the tramp can be easily read in another film with Zamachowski in the main role, that is in Reverted (1994) by Kazimierz Kutz. It will be interesting to watch these two films as works somehow complementing each other and making each other funnier. Even more interesting will be the meeting and conversation with their co-creators: Zbigniew Zamachowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Kazimierz Kutz.

Humour of the world represented in the films by Kieślowski is already there in his earliest works. If it does not sparkle, then it definitelly glimmers in the short film Concert of Requests (1967) with the memorable final scene, in which a young farmer (played by Kieślowski himself) with a beret on his head and a transistor radio by his ear is walking a cow on a string in the middle of the road. Another role in this film, slightly less funny, but more typical of Kieślowski’s work or even of himself, is played by Andrzej Titkow, Kieślowski’s colleague from film school. In 1970, together they filmed – this time completely seriously – a documentary I Was a Soldier. If in the times of People’s Poland the propaganda insistently strove to sweeten the years-long hardships of compulsory military service and inject historical accounts of the war and its “splendid soldier boys” with copious amounts of pathos, then Kieślowski and Titkow effectively warned that “playing with guns”, even in the name of the highest ideals, always happens at the expense of someone’s suffering, such as the one of the blinded veterans in their film. After the screenings we will talk about both works with Andrzej Titkow.

In spring this year, the National Polish Film School in Łódż awarded honorary doctorate to an outstanding professor and a distinguished documentary film-maker, Kazimiesz Karabasz. It was under him that young Kieślowski made his first documentary The Office (1966). Years later, he thus commented on the influence that the author of The Musicians (1960) had on him: “For me, the most important person in School was Karabasz. […] Karabasz was a certain oracle, a finger that shows you where to go.” Is there any relation between the characters of Kieślowski’s early documentaries and feature films and the girl from Krystyna M. (1973), a film by Karabasz that we have included in the programme of our section? We think there is. A certain special affinity, a kind of a similar way of looking at the world with a warm, kind and very delicate smile emerges from the films both by Kieślowski and Karabasz. You can also see this in a moving portrait of the old master that Andrzej Sapija painted with his camera in a feature-length documentary Intensity of Watching (2016) that will have its Polish premiere in Sokołowsko. Andrzej Sapija, the author of films about great Polish artists: Kantor, Różewicz,Opałka, will meet the Sokołowsko audience after the screening of the film about Kazimierz Karabasz.

Mikołaj Jazdon

© Publication of the text requires prior consent of the author.