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Best of 2015: A Look Back at the Year in Polish Culture takes a look back at the best of 2015 in film, visual arts, literature, theatre, music and design originating from Poland.


1. Academy Award for Ida, Silver Bear for Body

Paweł Pawlikowski with the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in the press room of the 87th Academy Awards held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA, USA, February 22, 2015, photo: Lucy Nicholson / REUTERS / Forum

February was a great month for Polish cinema: Małgorzata Szumowska was awarded a Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival for her film Body, and Paweł Pawlikowski's Ida became the first Polish film to receive an Academy Award in the Foreign Language Film category. Ryszard Lenczewski and Łukasz Żal were also nominated for Best Cinematography.

2. A great year for Polish documentaries

Still from the film Something Better to Come, directed by Hanna Polak, photo: Danish Documentary Productions

Two Polish documentary shorts were nominated for an Oscar - Joanna by Aneta Kopacz and Our Curse by Tomasz Śliwiński. It was only the beginning of a great year: later on films like Hanna Polak's Something Better to Come, Wojciech Staroń's Brothers and Karolina Bielawska's Call Me Marianna received praise and many awards at international film festivals. Now the film Starting Point by Michał Szcześniak is among the candidates for this year's Oscar nod.

3. Intriguing new voices in Polish cinema

Still from Magnus von Horn's The Here After, cinematography by Łukasz Żal, photo: Lava Films / Zentropa International Sweden

At the Gdynia Film Festival, interesting new voices emerged: Swedish-born Magnus von Horn received the award for Best Director for his film The Here After and Agnieszka Smoczyńska, who received the award for Best Debut, will be now showing her film The Lure in the international competition at the Sundance Film Festival. Among the best films at Gdynia were also Demon by Marcin Wrona and the independent Baby Bump by Kuba Czekaj.

Visual arts

1. APCA Award for the Kantor Exhibition in São Paulo

Interventions at the Tadeusz Kantor Machine exhibition, performed by Grupo Antropofágica, curated by Ludmiła Ryba and Michał Kobiałka, Sesc, São Paulo, 18th August 2015, photo: Alexandre Nunis 

The Troféu APCA, the most important cultural awards in Brazil, awarded the theatre award to the Tadeusz Kantor Machine exhibition at the Sesc Consolação. The exhibition was organised by Over 90,000 visitors came to see the exhibition.

2. Agnieszka Kurant's The End of the Signature displayed on the facade of the Guggenheim Museum in New York

The  End of the Signature, Agnieszka Kurant, 2014,  visualisation of the installation in the form of a neon sign, photo: courtesy of the artist

In June 2015, a neon sign by Agnieszka Kurant composed of thousands of visitors’ signatures lit up one of the most famous buildings in the world: The Guggenheim Museum in New York. The Guggenheim Museum, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, and the Polish Cultural Institute New York also presented the exhibition Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim featuring Paweł Althamer and Agnieszka Kurant.

3. Halka/Haiti - Joanna Malinowska, C.T. Jasper at Venice Biennale

C.T. Jasper, Joanna Malinowska, Halka/Haiti. 18°48’05”N 72°23’01”W, 2015. Soloists from the Stanisław Moniuszko Grand Theatre in Poznań, the St. Trinity Philharmonic Orchestra from Port-au-Prince and dancers from Cazale during the performance. Cazale, Haiti, 7th February, 2015, photo: Bartosz Górka

The project by the duo Joanna Malinowska and C.T. Jasper includes a large-scale film screening of Stanisław Moniuszko’s Halka, performed and recorded on 7th February 2015 in Cazale, Haiti. It was presented at the Venice Biennale. According to the curator of the project, the Haitian presentation of the Polish national opera, in which the folk themes and Polish-language libretto were a patriotic gesture on the part of Moniuszko in support of his occupied homeland, reveals a common colonial and post-colonial history.


1. Adam Zagajewski wins the Heinrich Mann Prize

Adam Zagajewski, Kraków, 2011, photo: Tomasz Wiech / Forum

Adam Zagajewski received the Heinrich Mann Prize presented by the Berlin Academy of Arts. It was yet another honour for the poet, prose writer, essayist and translator, whose name is often mentioned as a candidate for the literary Nobel Prize.

2. Magdalena Parys wins the European Prize for Literature

Magdalena Parys on the steps of Konzertause Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt, where the plot of one of her books takes place, 2014, photo: Łukasz Cynalewski / Agencja Gazeta

Magdalena Parys, a Gdańsk-born poet, writer and translator who lives in Berlin, was among the winners of the 2015 European Prize for Literature (EUPL). The list of laureates was announced in April during the opening ceremony of the London Book Fair. Parys has published two novels, Tunel / Tunnel (2011) and Magik / Magician (2014), both related to German topics. Her second book, recently distinguished by the European Commission, is a story about “Bulgarian traces” in the criminal activity of the Stasi, but first and foremost, it’s about Poles living in Berlin.

3. Jacek Dehnel's Lala wins the Terra Incognita award in Russia

Jacek Dehnel, photo: Lech Gawuc / REPORTER / East News

Dehnel's debut novel, translated by Jurij Czajnikow, received the award for best contemporary foreign novel published in Russia in 2015. The prize is given out at the most important book fair in Russia: Non/Fiction.


1. Kantor is still alive!

Tadeusz Kantor during the showing of Let the Artists Die by Cricot 2 Theatre Warsaw, 1986, photo: Wojciech Kryński / Forum

The Kantor Year initially announced by UNESCO was a great success. Many events were organized to celebrate the Polish director, such as the Tadeusz Kantor Machine Exhibition in São Paulo, Homage to Kantor - Theatre of Death exhibition in Kyoto and a seminar at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing. In 2015, as many as 68 artists from 30 countries applied for the residency organised by Cricoteka, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and the Tadeusz Kantor Foundation. Most of the candidates were visual artists connected with video, painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and performance.

2. Thomas Bernhard's Woodcutters directed by Krystian Lupa in Beijing, Avignon and Wrocław

A performance of Woodcutters directed by Krystian Lupa at the Century Theatre in Beijing, photo: Studio Panato

Krystian Lupa's latest play was staged at the Century Theatre in Beijing in May and opened the Open Festival d'Avignon in July. The Polish premiere of Woodcutters took place on 23rd October 2014 on the Jerzy Grzegorzewski stage of the Polski Theatre in Wrocław.

3. Dziady: Brest Fortress directed by Paweł Passini in Belarus

Dziady: Brest Fortress directed by Paweł Passini, 2015, photo: Elena Lola Leszczyńska

Adam Mickiewicz's iconic work was adapted by Patrycja Dołowy and Paweł Passini and staged at the Brest Theatre. It was a great success among the Belarusian public. Its Polish premiere took place during the Konfrontacje Teatralne festival in Lublin.


1. Król Roger triumphs in London

Scene from the opera King Roger directed by Kasper Holten, 2015,  photo: Bill Cooper / The Royal Opera House
Scene from the opera King Roger directed by Kasper Holten, 2015,  photo: Bill Cooper / The Royal Opera House

The performance of one of Karol Szymanowski’s two operas, Krol Roger, was directed by Kaspar Holten and performed in Covent Garden in London, immediately conquering viewers' hearts. This was an especially historic triumph since this masterpiece had previously been neglected by European scenes.

2. Polish music at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

Agata Zubel, photo: Jakub Pajewski
Agata Zubel, photo: Jakub Pajewski

The UK’s largest international festival of new and experimental music, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, marked the start of a two-year focus upon new music from Poland. The Polish music showcase at hcmf// was co-organised by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the Polska Music project. The composer-singer Agata Zubel and composer Jagoda Szmytka featured respectively in concerts by Klangforum Wien and The Riot Ensemble on the festival's opening night. Other concerts featured music by Zbigniew Karkowski, Eugeniusz Rudnik and Robert Piotrowicz.

3. Polo house, the Baltic beat, and the rise of the Polish electronic music underground

It has taken well over a decade for Poland’s underground electronic music scene to grow, expand, diversify and develop a unique identity. This growth, fuelled by an expanding core group of DJs, producers, labels and record stores, is beginning to be noticed abroad. Among labels gaining international recognition are Transatlantyk Records, The Very Polish Cut-Outs, Technosoul, S1 Warsaw, Mik Musik, Audile Snow, Bocian for more experimental music, and Bolt Records. The music scene is reigned by The Phantom, RSS Boys, Piotr Kurek, Wilhelm Bras, We Will Fail, Kucharczyk, Zamilska, Eltron John, Lutto Lento Ptaki, Duy Gebord, Michał Wolski, Fischerle, FOQL, Mirt and Ter, and the father figure of Polish electronica Jacek Sienkiewicz.


1. Restaurant carriage designed for Intercity trains

anusz Kaniewski Design, wagon restauracyjny w pociągu Intercity PesaDART dla PESA Bydgoszcz S.A., 2015, fot. dzięki uprzejmości spadkobiercó
Janusz Kaniewski Design, restaurant carriage in Intercity PesaDART for PESA Bydgoszcz S.A., 2015, photo: courtesy of Janusz Kaniewski's heirs

The main objective of the project was to combine the exemplary ergonomics, modernist functionality,  Japanese aesthetics and Scandinavian minimalism. The project designed by Janusz Kaniewski was shown for the first time at the Trako fair 2015. Twenty restaurant carriages were in service by the end of the year.

2. TAFLA Mirrors

Oskar Zięta, "TAFLA", producent: Zieta Prozessdesign, fot. Łódź Design Festival 2015
Oskar Zięta, TAFLA, producer: Zieta Prozessdesign, photo: Łódź Design Festival 2015

Designed by Oskar Zięta and produced by Zieta Prozessdesign, TAFLA (Ice floe) Mirrors  made in FiDU technology are as unique as the reflections in them. The new modular collection of mirrors gives another dimension of space and creates a unique story on your wall. Thanks to the FiDU technology, the free inner pressure deformation of the mirrors gives everyone a special and unique form of revealing the true face of the metal.

3. Armchair 366

olekcja mebli 366, projekt:Józef Chierowski, fot. Łódź Design Festival 2015
 Furniture 366 Concept, design:Józef Chierowski, photo: Łódź Design Festival 2015

The legendary armchair 366, designed by Józef Chierowski in 1962., has been produced again since 2014 by 366 Concept under an exclusive license. To match the original 366 easy chair, the company designed a line of additions: tables, lamp, sofa, rocking chair, footstool and pillow. Although the 366 easy chair was very popular, it was only in the contemporary era that the final form dreamed by Chierowski came to fruition: after more than 50 years, the screws that fix the seat to the wooden frame were hidden inside the wood.

The years 2010 to 2015 were particularly fruitful for Polish filmmakers. Below we've highlighted... Read more about: Award Winners: Poland's Best Films 2010-2015

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