Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 1, No 24
6 December 1999

Cultural news from Poland C U L T U R E   R O U N D - U P:
Poland's Week in Culture

Wojtek Kosc

NURT Documentary Festival in Kielce (Gazeta Wyborcza's Jerzy Armata, 30 November 1999)

Murders, robberies, satanists, prisoners, football fanatics, drastic examples of human misery and suffering - these were the main themes of the latest crop of documentaries from Poland.

In the second half of the 1950s, Polish cinema was dominated by a so-called "black series". Filmmakers started penetrating the dark side of, the then, Polish reality - hooliganism, prostitution and poverty. It seems another "black series" is coming up. Among the 40 documentaries shown at the 5th NURT Documentary Festival in Kielce, an overwhelming majority were concerned with the most unpleasant aspects of reality. Some reminded viewers of recent tragic events, such as teenager murderers, some showed past events, such as the 'Wujek' coal mine incident of 1981 whilst others tried to show the roots of the feelings of resignation, frustration and aggression now common in Poland.

Some of documentaries shown are definatley worth commenting on. In Nie zabijajcie delfinow (Don't Kill the Dolphins), Aleksander Kuc detailed the lifes of three young men, all called Michal, who were killed by other youngsters with extreme cruelty. Zablokowani (Blocked), by Maria Dluzewska and Marcin Kolodziejczyk, attempted to find the causes of Poland's darkening reality. The film showed daily life in a big block-of-flats, including the poverty, unemployment and the lack of perspective. The only forms of 'entertainment' in this grim reality were drugs and prostitutes. Similar in mood were Beata Januchta's Szalikowcy (Fans), about football hooligans, Marek Stacharski's Ucieczka od zlego (Escape from Evil), about satanists, and Iwona Michalec's Cudowne zakupy (Wonderful Shopping), about shoplifters.

However, there were some more optimistic documentaries. Stad widac Paryz (You Can See Paris From Here), by Athena Sawidis, showed severely retarded people who still were able to function normally. Jacek Knopp, in his Dotknij mnie (Touch Me), revealed the world of blind children. The film was awarded the first prize and the audience prize went to Dominik K Rakoczy's Dzieciaki (Kids), which showed the environment of child singing stars that is controlled by their parents' ambitions. One parent said, "You have to know it; it's no fun."

The festival was conceived by journalist and director Krzysztof Miklaszewski. It was to be an alternative to the Cracow festival of shorts and was designed to show all the productions rejected there. 152 documentaries applied for the Kielce event this year, 40 qualified. If such a tendency continues, there might emerge another festival for "the rejected." Especially when NURT discriminates against the best films. For example, Pawel Lozinski's Taka historia (Just a Story), a winner at the Cracow and Leipzig festivals, was not shown in Kielce - only because it won at the other festivals.

Jerzy Fitelberg's Conductors' Contest began in Katowice and will last until 12 December. 75 young conductors are competing for the main prize of USD 9000. Info: 0048 32 59 60 74.

The Forum of European Cinema started in Lodz on 3 December and will last until 12 December. Films from Nikita Michalkov, Werner Herzog, Lars von Trier and Jan Jakub Kolski will be shown. Info: 0048 42 632 18 59, 630 02 15, 637 37 69.

Steven Spielberg is one of the signers of a letter to the American Film Academy proposing an honorary Oscar for Andrzej Wajda.

An exhibition of Polish and other European Romantic painters has opened in the Royal Castle in Warsaw until 27 February. Exhibited artists include: Johann Friedrich Overbeck, Ara Scheffer, Eugene Delacroix, Piotr Michalowski and Jacek Malczewski.

Wojtek Kosc, 3 December 1999



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Getting to Love the Socialist Housing Estate

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