Those who seek disobedience in documentary film inevitably arrive at its Polish school. Its representatives have always been agitators in the best multiple sense of the word: courageous and radical, they sounded out the political and artistically creative limits, then transcended them. Displaying a proximity to fiction film, an openness in form and an affirmation towards staging, the Polish documentary film creates style characteristics all its own and assumes a unique stance internationally.
The programmes in this series refrain from placing the films in a correlation to film history and instead opt for a thematic, often provocative context. They consequently provide entertaining looks at and astute insights into universal themes, for instance the perpetual conflict between generations, the fear of the unfamiliar, and the demise of the individual within the system. The reference to religion, ‘sin’ and promise is always present thereby, albeit in a playful and humorous fashion. Yet the programmes will also deal with issues regarding the nation and the family, with shortage, censorship and approaching it creatively, and ultimately with vodka.
Alongside classics by Kazimierz Karabasz, Jerzy Bossak, Krzysztof Kieślowski and Marcel Łoziński among others, there is a whole series of barely known works to discover, such as “Wave” by Piotr Łazarkiewicz, who offers a raucous, wild description of the punk rebellion in the late 1980s.
Disobedience equally applies to Jerzy Bossak and Jarosław Brzozowski. In “Warsaw 1956”, they retaliate against the portrayals given in propaganda-disseminating newsreels and broadcasts by showing post-war Warsaw from its damaged, ramshackle and hazardous side. In doing so the filmmakers trigger a change of perspective towards the problems in establishing the new society there. Just as in Edward Skórzewski and Jerzy Hoffman’s “Look Out, Hooligans!”, the documentary element is staged in a completely open manner in order to create a counter-depiction, a rebuttal.
In “The 24 Hours of Jadwiga L.”, Krystyna Gryczełowska observes a factory worker and mother whose daily routine is defined by duties and chores. The result: an early feminist oeuvre. Another strong feminine voice in Polish cinema speaks out in the form of filmmaker Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz. In “Everyone Knows Who They Are Standing Behind”, she humorously addresses the absurdity of an everyday phenomenon in the People’s Republic: queuing.
Happy End (1972); Director: Marcel Łoziński
The kinds of ramifications life in a totalitarian society can have are shown sagely and allegorically by Marcel Łoziński by setting up an artificial situation: “Happy End” is a psychological experiment in which a party meeting threatens to turn into a collective hunt.
In turn, Krzysztof Kieślowski paints a portrait of a man who, in alignment with his credo that rules are more important than people, presents himself as the perfect outgrowth of an authoritarian regime in “From a Night Porter’s Point of View”.
In the aftermath of a complicated phase of post-’89 restructuring, in the early 21st century it’s the followers of Łoziński, Dziworski and Zmarz-Koczanowicz who successfully manage to pick up where their predecessors left off and develop their traditions further.
For example, in “Such A Nice Boy I Gave Birth To”, Marcin Koszałka exposes himself to the vociferous reproaches his mother directs towards him and his entire generation. In “I Am Bad”, a film set in a socially stranded suburb of Warsaw, Grzegorz Pacek hands over the camera to a group of adolescents, who promptly take advantage of the opportunity for self-dramatisation.
I Am Bad (2000); Director: Grzegorz Pacek
Chronologically the series ends with the world premiere of “The Intensity of Watching”, in which Andrzej Sapija looks back on the life and works of master Kazimierz Karabasz.
The programmes are going to be presented by renowned Polish filmmakers. In addition, a DOK Talk Special devotes itself to the issue of the possibility for cinematic disobedience in Poland, both in the past and – above all – the present.
The Retrospective is being carried out in co-operation with the Krakow Film Foundation and Polnisches Institut Berlin/Leipzig and is being supported by FGPC, the Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation. Kornel Miglus (curator and advisory expert for film at Polnisches Institut), Lars Meyer (film journalist and programmer at DOK Leipzig) and Grit Lemke (head of the Film Programme at DOK Leipzig) acted as curators for the Retrospective.