Record box-office results, new successes by accomplished filmmakers, widely acclaimed debuts, great documentaries, and an increase in international sales of Polish films; these are the traits of Polish cinema in 2016.

13 Million Tickets Sold to Domestic Films

In 2016, box-office of Polish films reached a level that hasn’t been seen in years, with a total of 13 million admissions. Total annual cinema admissions have also hit a new record of 52 million. Polish films were successful in competing against Hollywood blockbusters. Five domestic productions marked over one million admissions each. At the top of the year’s box-office list is Pitbull. Niebezpieczne kobiety by Patryk Vega (over 2.7 million admissions) and Planeta Singli (Planet Single) by Mitja Okorn (over 1.9 million admissions). Wojciech Smarzowski’s Wołyń was another box-office hit, with over 1.4 million admissions. With over 224,000 admissions, Za niebieskimi drzwiami (Behind the Blue Door) by Mariusz Palej showed great potential as the first of a number of films for family audiences that are currently being developed in Poland.

Acclaimed Debut Films

2016 was another good year for Polish debuts. A number of these received acclaim at film festivals in Poland and abroad, including Ostatnia Rodzina (The Last Family) by Jan P. Matuszyński (world premiere and award at the Locarno IFF), Córki Dancingu (The Lure) by Agnieszka Smoczyńska (award at Sundance), Plac zabaw (Playground) by Bartosz M. Kowalski (world premiere at San Sebastian IFF, awards at the Warsaw Film Festival and London BFI), and Kamper by Łukasz Grzegorzek (award at Raindance). Ja, Olga Hepnarová (I, Olga Hepnarová), a Czech-Polish-Slovak co-production directed by Tomáš Weinreb and Petr Kazda, screened as the opening film of the Panorama section at the Berlin IFF.

The year also brought success to the authors of several short films. The bronze medal of the 43rd edition of the student Oscars went to Klara Kochańska for her short narrative film Lokatorki (The Tenants). One of the films shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination in the Best Documentary – Short Subject category is Więzi (Close Ties) by Zofia Kowalewska.

International Accolades for Polish Filmmakers

At the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, Tomasz Wasilewski received the Silver Bear award for Best Screenplay for his film Zjednoczone Stany Miłości (United States of Love). For his work on Jerzy Skolimowski’s 11 minut (11 Minutes), Radosław Ochnio received the European Sound Designer award at the European Film Awards, while Małgorzata Szumowska received the People’s Choice Award for her film Body/Ciało (Body). At the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, Jerzy Skolimowski received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Andrzej Wajda’s Powidoki (Afterimage) and Ryszard Bugajski’s Zaćma both had their world premiere at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. The Sundance festival marked the premiere screening of Niewinne (Les innocentes), a Polish-French co-production directed by Anne Fontaine.

Good Reputation of Polish Documentaries

Polish documentary films continue to enjoy international acclaim, with Polish docs being screened at the world’s top international film festivals. The award for Best Directing in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the Sundance film festival went to Michał Marczak for his film Wszystkie nieprzespane noce (All These Sleepless Nights). Anna Zamecka’s documentary debut Komunia (Communion) won the top prize in the Film Critics’ Week at Locarno, while Kiedy ten wiatr ustanie by Aniela Gabryel was awarded at IDFA in Amsterdam. Other multiple award-winning films include Dotknięcie Anioła by Marek Tomasz Pawłowski, Bracia (Brothers) by Wojciech Staroń, Dwa światy (Two Worlds) by Maciej Adamek, Mów mi Marianna (Call Me Marianna) by Karolina Bielawska, Koniec świata (The End of the World) by Monika Pawluczuk, and Łowcy miodu (Honey Hunters) by Krystian Matysek. Piotr Stasik’s documentary 21 x Nowy Jork (21 x New York) was nominated for the European Film Award.

Increasing International Distribution of Polish Films

Polish producers are increasingly engaging in co-productions with international partners, which helps improve the international promotion of their films and increase its distribution potential. Niewinne (Les Innocentes), a film directed by Anne Fontaine and made as a Polish-French co-production, marked over 720,000 theatrical admissions in France alone, and was also released theatrically in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Finland, and the United States, where the box-office returns were over 1 million dollars. Intruz (The Here After), a Polish-Swedish co-production directed by Magnus von Horn, was released theatrically in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, and France. Another Polish-Swedish co-production, Tomasz Wasilewski’s Zjednoczone Stany Miłości (United States of Love), was released in Hungary, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom, where it was warmly received. Czech-Slovak-Polish co-productions Czerwony Kapitan (The Red Captain) by Michal Kollár and Ja, Olga Hepnarová (I, Olga Hepnarová) by Tomáš Weinreb and Petr Kazda, were released in each of the co-producing countries. The latter film was also distributed in France. Twój Vincent (Loving Vincent), a Polish-British co-production directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, has already been sold to over 100 territories. Marcin Wrona’s Demon was released theatrically in the United States, Brazil, and Germany. Jerzy Skolimowski’s 11 minut (11 Minutes) screened in Japan, Portugal and on US Netflix. Papusza by Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze was released theatrically in the United Kingdom. Jacek Lusiński’s Carte Blanche was released in Denmark, Łukasz Palkowski’s Bogowie (Gods) in Spain, and Krzysztof Łukaszewicz’s Karbala in Bulgaria. Russian cinemas screened Karski i władcy ludzkości, a documentary by Sławomir Grünberg. 2016 also saw the release of Małgorzata Szumowska’s Body/Ciało (Body) in cinemas in Hungary, Switzerland, Brazil, and Denmark. In total, Body/Ciało (Body) has been sold to over 25 territories.

Translated by Karolina Kołtun