A century of Polish film

The Polish Zoom festival is hosting directors and historians in a series of screenings and panels.

By
September 10, 2019 20:55
3 minute read.
A century of Polish film

A still image from 'The Lure,' a 2015 film blending horror, fantasy and mermaids. . (photo credit: ROBERT PALKA)

Polish Zoom, a month-long celebration of Polish films past and present, will open on Wednesday at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. The festival will boast a series of screenings across the country, showcasing a century of Polish films, from the 1917 black-and-white silent film The Beast, starring Pola Negri, to the 2018 historical epic The Butler, directed by Filip Bajon, who will attend the screenings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in person.

A unique place in the festival will be given to the 1948 film The Last Stage, directed by Wanda Jakubowska, who was a Polish inmate in Auschwitz due to her fierce Communist ideology and activities. The film was shot in the camp soon after its inmates were liberated. One of the first films to depict the horror of the Nazis’ “final solution” for the Jewish people, and the plan to dominate Europe at the expense of so called “inferior” nations, such as the Poles, the film was met with fierce rejection when screened in Israel in the 1950s. Jakubowska, who was not Jewish, chose to tell the story of a Polish Jewish inmate who was eventually liberated by the Red Army. Watching the film in 2019, the audience will be able to view a milestone of movie history in the depiction of the Holocaust. The Monday, September 23 screening in Jerusalem will be followed by a special panel with Polish film historian Prof. Monika Talarczyk, who will discuss the movie with Avner Shavit, the film critic for Walla.

Jointly created by the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, the festival offers a taste of the rich legacy of Polish movie history with special showings of the 1965 film How to be Loved, by Wojciech Has and 1979’s Camera Buff/Amator by Krzysztof Kieslowski. This is a nice nod, as Has was one of the centers of the 2008 Polish Year of Culture in Israel, which was an important step in introducing Israelis to that country’s culture.

Among the more recent films on offer is 2018’s Nina, a tale of a couple seeking a surrogate mother, which becomes a lesbian love affair between the wife and the young woman. Directed by Olga Chajdas, the film was lampooned in the Guardian, yet in the current political climate in Poland, where some magazines hand out stickers with the depiction of a “LGBT Free Zone” and women must hold massive protests to maintain their reproductive rights under a conservative right-wing government, the film is a brave choice.

One of the most eagerly anticipated films is the 2015 movie The Lure, which gained a special jury award in the Sundance 2016 film festival. Directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska, the movie boldly builds on two existing Western traditions in the mermaid myth, that they can lure men to their deaths with song – as in the Greek tradition – and seek to become fully human – as in the Danish legend penned by Hans Christian Andersen – to tell a very different story weaving together mermaids, horror, fantasy, comedy and club culture from socialist Poland.



Smoczynska will take part in a panel discussing her work alongside Shavit on Monday, September 16, at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque following a screening.

On par with the current Polish fascination with the nation’s complex history and change from a pluralistic society to a mostly ethnically Polish one, the festival will screen the 2018 film The Butler, which depicts cultural and historical tensions between German and Polish speakers in the region of Kashubia in western Poland. An impressive historical production told from the perspective of a class-breaching romantic affair between servant and mistress. Acclaimed director Bajon will be present in the capital on Wednesday, when his film will be shown as part of the official opening of the festival, and on Thursday at the Tel Aviv screening.

For those seeking a slightly more intimate take on personal history, the 2016 film The Last Family might be a good choice. The movie is composed of family footage compiled over a three-decade period by Polish painter and photographer, Zdzislaw Beksinski, as directed by Jan Matuszynski. Beksinski, a noted painter, was tragically stabbed in his home in 2015 by a teenager. This gentle personal movie might be a much-needed reprieve for those who take on as festival goers such difficult topics as German-Polish relations and Jewish-Polish traumas.

The Polish Zoom film festival will take place across the country in the cinematheques of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sderot, Holon and Herzliya. For more details see here. 


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