Archive for May, 2009

Polish Paths to Freedom: Sparks of Hope (screening times)

Further to my post last week about the Imperial War Museum’s ambitious, very welcome and entirely free series of screenings of Polish films illuminating the country’s post-1970s history, they’ve now confirmed dates and screening times. You can download a PDF document here, but I’m sure they won’t mind me reproducing the details for easier Googling:

Monday June 1/Tuesday June 2

10.30am: Poznań 56 (d. Filip Bajon, 1996, 106 mins)

This film examines the events surrounding the workers’ protests in Poznań in June 1956 from the perspective of two boys of 10–12 years old. In reconstructing the strike and demonstrations; tanks and shootouts in the streets; the film’s director Filip Bajon recalls his own memories when as a 10 year old he was a witness to the riots in Poznań.

2.00pm: Krzysztof Kieślowski Programme: A Short Working Day (Krótki dzień pracy, 1981, 73 mins); The Office (Urząd, 1966, 6 mins); The Factory (Fabryka, 1970, 17 mins); The Hospital (Szpital, 1976, 20 mins); The Railway Station (Dworzec, 1980, 14 mins)

A Short Working Day tells the story of the workers’ protests in Radom in June 1976 from the point of view of a local Communist dignitary. The protests were sparked by a speech by the Prime Minister the day before, in which a 69% increase in meat prices was announced. The film combines archival material with a dramatized reconstruction of the events.

The Office: filmed with a hidden camera in the offices of the Social Insurance Agency, this documentary film satirises the bureaucracy and the heartlessness of the petty clerks who work there.

The Factory: filmed Production Council meetings at the Ursus tractor factory are contrasted with the realities of the work conditions there, in order to present a true portrait of how such an enterprise functioned in the realities of a Socialist economy (a picture quite different from that of the official propaganda of success).

The Hospital: the movie camera follows a team of doctors in Trauma Ward One of the hospital on Barska Street in Warsaw. As a result, we watch the extraordinary account of a 31 hour shift, depicting the realities of a hospital in Socialist Poland in the 1970s.

The Railway Station: the Central Railway Station in Warsaw – a flagship investment of the 1970s – as seen through the wry eye of the documentary filmmaker. The modern closed-circuit television system monitoring the platforms and corridors of the station brings to mind methods of social control typical of a totalitarian political system.

Thursday June 4

10.30am: Krzysztof Kieślowski Programme

2.00pm: Poznań 56

Friday June 5

10.30am: Man of Marble (Człowiek z marmuru, d. Andrzej Wajda, 1976, 153 mins)

The year is 1976. Agnieszka, a young and ambitious director, decides to make a film about a Stalin-era ‘hero of socialist labour’, the mason Mateusz Birkut, who laid 30,000 bricks with his five man crew during a single shift in 1952. During her search through archival and documentary material, Agnieszka uncovers the human drama hidden behind the facade of official propaganda. It emerges that Birkut went from being a favourite of the authorities to becoming a critic of them, falling out of favour and ending up in prison…

2.00pm: Man of Iron (Człowiek z żelaza , d. Andrzej Wajda, 1981, 147 mins)

The story is a continuation of the saga of the Birkut family. Maciek Tomczyk, the son of Mateusz Birkut, is a worker at the Gdansk Shipyards. He is also an active member of the strike committee. A radio journalist named Winkel receives orders to produce a radio feature to discredit Tomczyk. In order to get into the shipyards, Winkel visits the family of a union activist, Wiesława Hulewicz. He learns of the marriage between Agnieszka (who made the film about Birkut in 1976) and Maciek Tomczyk. Agnieszka is currently under arrest for supporting the strike. Thanks to his connections inside the police, Winkel arranges to see her. The young woman tells the journalist the story of how she met and later married Birkut.

Sunday June 7

10.30am: Man of Marble

2.00pm: Krzysztof Kieślowski Programme

Monday June 8

10.30am: Workers 1980 (Robotnicy ’80, 94 mins)

A documentary film produced during the strikes at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdańsk (in August 1980) by a group of filmmakers from the Documentary Film Studio in Warsaw. Workers 1980 follows events during the strike and the negotiations of the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee with representatives of the Governmental Commission. The Communist authorities prevented the film’s release.

2.30pm: Man of Iron

Wednesday June 10/Thursday June 11

10.30am: Workers 1980

2.00pm: Man of Iron

Friday June 12

2.00pm: Strajk Die Heldin von Danzig (d. Volker Schlöndorff, 2006, 104 mins)

A historical panorama of the milieu of workers at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdańsk from the 1950s to the ‘Solidarity’ era. The story is told via the biography of a female worker from Gdańsk – a welder and crane operator with a defiant nature and the charisma of a leader, who is never able to remain silent when she sees someone suffering injustice.

Monday June 15/Tuesday June 16/Thursday June 18

2.00pm: Death as a Slice of Bread (Śmierć jak kromka chleba, d. Kazimierz Kutz, 1994, 116 mins)

A film record of the pacification of the Wujek mine – the most tragic episode during martial law – when a strike by miners against the imposition of martial law and the arrest of labour leaders was brutally broken up by the army and police.

Friday June 19

2.00pm: To Kill A Priest (d. Agnieszka Holland, 1988, 115 mins)

This drama – about the efforts of an officer in the Security Service to discredit and eventually eliminate a young priest known for his anti-communist sermons – was inspired by the real life murder of some dozen priests during martial law, notably that of Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko in 1984. This was the only case in which those directly responsible (who were functionaries of the Security Service) were found and tried.

Saturday June 20

10.30am: Workers 1980

2.00pm: Strajk Die Heldin von Danzig

Sunday June 21

10.30am: To Kill A Priest

2.00pm: Strajk Die Heldin von Danzig

Monday June 22

2.00pm: Man of Iron

Tuesday June 23/Wednesday June 24

2.00pm: The Last School Bell (Ostatni dzwonek, d. Magdalena Łazarkiewicz, 1989, 107 mins)

In a provincial high school in the 1980s, a new student named Krysztof – who has been thrown out of a school in Gdańsk for distributing anti-Communist leaflets – begins his senior year. At first he is treated by his schoolmates with distrust, but he soon becomes the leader of a class that carries on an unequal fight with the authoritarian school directorship. The students have a quiet ally in one young teacher, Meluzyna, who infects them with her love for theatre. In defiance of the school directors the students decide to put on an amateur
play that contains politically incorrect messages.

Thursday June 25

2.00pm: Calls Controlled (Rozmowy kontrolowane, d. Sylwester Chęciński, 1991, 93 mins)

A comedy set in the dark early days of martial law. Winter, bitter cold, tanks on the streets, omnipresent propaganda and constant surveillance. But people have to somehow carry on their lives … Everyone does what they must to get by. Some fight against Communism, others engage in small-time side interests.

Friday June 26

2.00pm: To Kill A Priest

Saturday June 27/Sunday June 28

10.30am: Calls Controlled

2.00pm: Escape from the Liberty Cinema (Ucieczka z kina ‘Wolność’, d. Wojciech Marczewski, 1990, 87 mins)

A portrait of a character typifying the late 1980s. A run-down man, who is a seemingly dangerous Communist functionary, is in reality fearful, lonely and fully aware of the approaching death of Communism – and thus the senselessness of his work.

Monday June 29

2.00pm: Street Games (Gry uliczne, d. Krzysztof Krauze, 1996, 100 mins)

Two young journalists receive information that a certain well-known politician, Senator Makowski, was an undercover agent for the Security Service in 1977 and was responsible for the death of their friend. The friend in question, Stanisław Pyjas, was a student and opposition activist, murdered most likely on orders from the secret police. For both reporters, Pyjas’ death is an event from the distant past, but Makowski’s arrogance spurs them to take action. They set out on a journalistic investigation.

Tuesday June 30

2.00pm: Three Buddies (Trzech kumpli, d. Ewa Stankiewicz/Anna Ferens, 2008, 111 mins)

A documentary tale of three friends from the university in Kraków in the 1970s. One of them is murdered, the second turns out to be a traitor, and the third fights on the side of truth years later.

For further information, address, directions etc., please see the Imperial War Museum’s own website.

Posted on 27th May 2009
Under: Poland, Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Krzysztof Krauze, Wojciech Marczewski, Retrospectives | 1 Comment »

100 Years of Polish Cinema

My friend Kamila has just told me about this extraordinary site, inspired by the Polish Film Institute’s commemoration of Polish cinema’s centenary (the first truly Polish film is believed to date from 1908).

I’ve only skimmed it so far, but it looks like a fascinating and valuable resource, consisting as it does of individual pages devoted to 130 separate films (presented chronologically from George Meyer’s 1908 Anton in Warsaw for the First Time/Antoś pierwszy raz w Warszawie to Waldemar Krzystek’s 2008 Little Moscow/Mała Moskwa), many with attachments including stills galleries, posters and video - the latter unsubtitled, unsurprisingly, but you get the general idea, and the text is at least bilingual in English and Polish. The films are also indexed by director, and three short essays by Rafał Marszałek supply historical context for the pre-war, post-war and post-1989 periods.

Posted on 25th May 2009
Under: Poland, Retrospectives | No Comments »

Polish Paths to Freedom: Sparks of Hope

Just over a year ago I posted details about the second instalment of the Imperial War Museum’s enterprising Polish Paths to Freedom season - a series of films illustrating aspects of twentieth-century Polish history from various perspectives, fiction and non-fiction, contemporary and historical, you name it.

They’ve just announced the line-up for part three, ‘Sparks of Hope’, which covers the period from the rise of Solidarity to the present day. A complete list of titles is here - they include rare big-screen showings of Krzysztof Kieślowski documentaries, including 1981’s drama-documentary A Short Working Day (Krótki dzień pracy), which as far as I’m aware is one of the few Kieślowski films that has yet to be released on DVD.

Other screenings include Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble (Człowiek z marmuru, 1977) and Man of Iron (Człowieka z żelaza, 1981) and Wojciech Marszewski’s Escape From The ‘Liberty’ Cinema (Ucieczka z kina Wolność, 1990), which I reviewed here - plus lots of other rarities.

The season runs from June 1st to July 15th - and the best news of all is that admission is free.

Posted on 22nd May 2009
Under: Poland, Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Wojciech Marczewski, Retrospectives | 1 Comment »

Check the Gate 2009

The second Check the Gate festival of Hungarian films in London will take place from 25th to 30th June. While last year’s line-up consisted of six relatively recent titles, this year they’ve upped the total to ten and there’s a much greater concentration on acknowledged classics, dating back forty years to the late Péter Bacsó’s delicious The Witness (A tanú, 1969).

Here’s the complete line-up - all screenings are at the ICA:

25 June, Cinema 1, 8.30 pm
Made In Hungaria (d.Gergely Fonyó, 2008)

26 June, Cinema 2, afternoon
The Witness (A tanú, d. Péter Bacsó, 1969)

26 June, Cinema 2, evening
The Lords’s Lantern in Budapest (Nekem lámpást adott kezembe az Úr Pesten, d. Miklós Jancsó, 1999)

27 June, Cinema 2, afternoon
Love (Szerelem, d. Károly Makk, 1971)

27 June, Cinema 2, evening
Junk Movie (Roncsfilm, d. György Szomjas, 1992)

28 June, Cinema 2, afternoon
Time Stands Still (Megáll az idő, d. Péter Gothár, 1982)

28 June, Cinema 2, evening
Moscow Square (Moszkva tér, d. Ferenc Török, 2000

29 June, Cinema 2, afternoon
We Never Die (Sose halunk meg, d. Róbert Koltai, 1992)

29 June, Cinema 2 evening
Bolse Vita (d. Ibolya Fekete, 1996)

30 June, Cinema 2 evening
Family Nest (Családi tűzfészek, d. Béla Tarr, 1979)

And here’s the official website.

Posted on 7th May 2009
Under: Festivals, Hungary | 3 Comments »

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