February 21 at Warsaw’s Kultura cinema marked a press Q&A with the filmmakers whose films screened at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival earlier this month. February 21 at Warsaw’s Kultura cinema marked a press Q&A with the filmmakers whose films screened at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival earlier this month. The meeting was organised by the Polish Film Institute in cooperation with the Polish Filmmakers Association.

Participants included: director Agnieszka Holland, winner of the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for her feature Pokot (Spoor); producer Irena Strzałkowska of TOR Film Studio; director Rafał Kapeliński, winner of the Crystal Bear award for his Butterfly Kisses; the film’s Polish co-producer and distributor Jacek Szumlas; director of Królewicz Olch (The Erlprince) Kuba Czekaj, as well as production managers Magdalena Kamińska and Agata Szymańska (produced by the Munk Studio, Polish Filmmakers Association); director of Zwierzęta (Animals) Greg Zgliński and co-producer Łukasz Dzięcioł of Opus Film; actress Zofia Wichłacz, this year’s EFP Shooting Star; actor Jakub Gierszał, mentioned on Variety’s list of “Ten Europeans to Watch”; Violetta Kamińska of Message Film, producer of The Trial: The State of Russia vs. Oleg Sentsov; Michalina Musielak, director of the short film Miss Holocaust; Wojciech Markowski and Ola Knychalska, producers of the Rudzienko documentary video-essay, and Ewa Puszczyńska, co-producer of Hostages.

Celebration of Polish Cinema

“This year’s Berlinale was very successful for Polish cinema. It was the third consecutive year that a Polish film received an award in Main Competition. The festival’s main sections featured a total of nine films that were either directed by a Polish director or supported by Polish producers. Polish filmmakers have a voice, which reaps results such as the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for Agnieszka Holland,” said Magdalena Sroka, General Director of the Polish Film Institute.

Agnieszka Holland’s Pokot (Spoor) screened in Main Competition, winning the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for opening new perspectives in film art. The Crystal Bear Award in the Generation 14plus competition went to Butterfly Kisses by Polish director Rafał Kapeliński. Another Polish film in this section was Kuba Czekaj’s Królewicz Olch (The Erlprince). This young filmmaker received the Baumi Script Development Award for the script of his feature project Sorry Polsko. The Berlinale Shorts competition lineup featured Miss Holocaust by Michalina Musielak, while the Forum section screened Zwierzęta (Animals), the latest film by Greg Zgliński, director of Wymyk (Courage). The lineup of Forum Expanded featured Serce miłości (A Heart of Love) by Łukasz Ronduda and Rudzienko by Sharon Lockhart.

The celebration of the 30th anniversary of the European Film Academy at the 67th Berlin IFF featured the world premiere of the documentary The Trial: The State of Russia vs. Oleg Sentsov about Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov who has been sentenced to 20 years in a maximum security penal colony in Russia.

Berlinale in the Eyes of the Filmmakers: Polish Cinema Appreciated Around the World

At the meeting, the filmmakers discussed their impressions of the 67th Berlin IFF.

Agnieszka Holland: “There is a very positive vibe around Polish cinema. It has been gaining recognition around the world for the past few years. The success of some filmmakers draws attention to films by others […]. As a Polish filmmaker, I am so proud of these accomplishments that at the press conference following the awards ceremony I mainly discussed how the Polish Film Institute operates and how effective the Polish system for financing film production is.”

Polish Cinema Currently on Top

Director Rafał Kapeliński discussed his views on new Polish cinema. Kapeliński, whose debut Butterfly Kisses won the Crystal Bear, has been living in the UK for the past 25 years. “I watch the latest Polish films and I think they are increasingly interesting both in terms of form and themes. They present a contemporary and clear take on universal problems. I agree that Polish cinema is currently on top,” said Kapeliński.
“Polish debuts are noticed at key international film festivals, the young generation is speaking with a louder voice. Aside from our age, we have little in common — each of us has a different approach to cinema, which is fantastic, because we are able to communicate in different ways,” said young filmmaker Kuba Czekaj, winner of the Baumi Script Development Award at Berlinale.

Actors Zofia Wichłacz (Shooting Star 2017) and Jakub Gierszał (Shooting Star 2012) discussed the role of the European Shooting Stars programme.

“The award is important, but what’s even more important is the opportunity to meet with casting directors and agents from different countries. This creates more opportunites for us as actors to become involved in international film productions,” said Zofia Wichłacz.

Jakub Gierszał stated that the European Shooting Stars programme is an excellent opportunity for networking with the international film industry. “A programme like this can only help […]. It broadens the awareness of international casting directors. Without the programme, I would have never been able to work overseas. There is an awareness that we exist and are eager to work. That opens new possibilities,” said Gierszał, who was named by Variety as one of Ten Europeans to Watch 2017.

International Cooperation in the Film Industry

General Director of the Polish Film Institute Magdalena Sroka discussed the visibility of Polish cinema at Berlinale’s European Film Market, one of the key industry events in the world, where filmmakers search for co-producers and sales agents for their projects.

“Once again we promoted Polish cinema at Berlinale at our dedicated national stand, organised jointly by the Polish Film Institute, the Polish Filmmakers Association and Polish Film Promotion, in partnership with Telewizja Polska, the Polish Animation Producers Association, the Polish Audiovisual Producers Chamber of Commerce, Film Commission Poland, and regional film commissions,” said Magdalena Sroka.

“Thanks to the screenings at the European Film Market, Wojciech Smarzowski’s Wołyń (Volhynia) secured an international sales agent: VMI Worldwide from Los Angeles,” said Sroka. Also screening at the European Film Market were recent Polish films, including Sztuka kochania. Historia Michaliny Wisłockiej (The Art of Loving), Maria Skłodowska-Curie (Marie Curie), Powidoki (Afterimage), and Plac zabaw (Playground).

International Minority Co-Productions Co-Financed by the Polish Film Institute Screening at Berlinale

In 2016, the Polish Film Institute launched a separate envelope for international minority co-productions with Polish involvement. The programme quickly became popular, with producers submitting a total of 44 applications, 15 of which were approved for funding from the Polish Film Institute. Three of them screened at this year’s Berlinale: the Forum section featured Zwierzęta (Animals), a Swiss-Austrian-Polish co-production by director Greg Zgliński, the Berlinale Specials included the Polish-Estonian documentary The Trial: The State of Russia vs. Oleg Sentsov by director Askold Kurov, and the Panorama lineip included Hostages, a feature Georgian-Russian-Polish co-production, produced on the Polish side by Ewa Puszczyńska.

New Projects Financed by the Polish-German Film Fund

The 67th Berlin IFF also featured a session of the Polish-German Film Fund, which as of last year includes a new partner, the German Federal Film Board (FFA).

“To date, Germany has only collaborated on the federal level with France; Poland is now the second partner,” said Magdalena Sroka. This session resulted in securing financing for three out of seven submitted projects: Wilkołak, the second feature by Adrian Panek (100,000 EUR); Der Hauptman, a Polish-German co-production by Robert Schwentke (100,000 EUR), and development funding for The War Has Ended by director Hagar Ben-Asher (40,000 EUR).

Young Filmmakers at Berlinale Talents

“This year a total of eleven young Polish filmmakers have been selected to participate in the Berlinale Talents workshop,” said Magdalena Sroka. This year’s participants were directors Kasia Adamik, Agnieszka Elbanowska, Agnieszka Zwiefka, Filip Jacobson, Julia Popławska, and Justyna Tafel, sound designer Katarzyna Szczerba, editors Katarzyna Boniecka and Tomasz Ciesielski, production designer Daria Wiktoria Kopiec, and producer Anna Gawlita.

Acknowledgement for the Filmmakers for a Successful 67th Berlin IFF

“Polish cinema is in excellent shape — not just on the European, but on the world stage. This is thanks to the Polish filmmakers and producers who are increasingly successful in foreign markets,” said Magdalena Sroka as she congratulated the Polish filmmakers on their success at the 67th Berlinale.

Marta Sikorska, Paulina Bez, Magda Wylężałek