Director of animated films and author of digital special effects for films and computer games, also a draughtsman and painter. Born in 1976 in Białystok.
His adventure with his basic animation work tool, i.e. the computer, began with Atari games, and he made his first digital drawings on an Amiga machine. Before that, practically from childhood, he had created comic strips on paper. Dabbling with animation was the natural next step, as the painting software he used enabled him to create simple animations. In secondary school Bagiński also became fascinated with demo animations set to music, made by computer aficionados.
He made his first film, The Hunt, on a computer at the mathematics faculty of the University of Warsaw's Białystok branch where his father worked. It was also there that Bagiński made his first animated commercial, commissioned by the owner of a computer shop. After graduating from secondary school he decided to try to enrol at the National Film, Television and Theatre School in Łódź, to work in artistic animation in future. Bagiński's love of computer animation did not meet with understanding from the Łódź film school's teachers, who preferred classic techniques, neither was he accepted into Warsaw's Academy of Fine Arts. He enrolled in an architecture course at the Warsaw University of Technology. However, computer animation was still his passion and he learned about it on his own, from trade periodicals and by analysing sequences that caught his interest, in a 'reverse engineering' process.
In his second year of university, in 1997, he started working on the film Rain which won the YoungElectronicsArts 3D graphics competition and opened the way to a job at the Platige Image postproduction company. He realized that making TV commercials and music videos was an excellent way of learning the techniques and methods he would need to make his own films. It was at Platige Image, working after hours, that he made The Cathedral, and he dropped out of university in his fourth year to focus on animated films. Bagiński's animation, inspired by a sci-fi short story by Jacek Dukaj, the paintings of Zdzisław Beksiński, and the architecture of Gaudi, won recognition and received many prizes. The film was an award-winner of festivals such as Siggraph 2002, Animago 2002, the Kraków Film Festival, and OFAFA 2002. It also received an Oscar nomination in the animated short film category. The Cathedral is impressive technically, with brilliant textures, unusual though dramatically justified camera angles, changing shots, and a vivid use of light. The director himself has emphasized:
The Cathedral was a kind of 'pop auteur film'; actually, discussions about this crop up to this day and quite a few people accuse me that The Cathedral has little in common with true art and only a viewer completely unfamiliar with auteur cinema could consider it art. But... that was the whole point. I didn't want to make a film to be watched by 5 people at a student film club. I wanted to create something which would get through to many people, grab their interest. The promotion of the film contributed enormously to this, conducted on such a scale for the first time in Poland, and of course the Oscar nomination as well. I have the satisfaction that maybe after seeing my film some viewers became interested enough in the theme to turn to more serious works. (Mariusz Frukacz, 24 klatki na sekundę. Rozmowy o animacji / 24 Frames Per Second. Conversations About Animation, Kraków 2008)
His subsequent films were part of the same trend, representing fictional, classic, and fundamentally non-avant-garde cinema, addressed to a wide audience. In 2004 Bagiński made, also in 3D, Fallen Art. This is a perverse story set in an isolated military base in the Pacific, where the officers have lost their minds and have a terrible pastime - photographing soldiers plummeting from a platform. The pictures serve their mentally ill general as material for creating, with the help of a special kind of stop motion technique, his very own film - a macabre dance of death. Bagiński's film-within-a-film animation is not just about the art of animating still photos, it is also about the pointlessness of war, when soldiers become the victims of the art of war practised by their commanders. Bagiński enclosed his intriguing visual concept within the framework of a perfect narrative loop, thanks to which the film's form corresponds seamlessly to its content. Fallen Art won major awards at the film festivals in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Stuttgart, Linz, Teheran, and Tirana, and received a BAFTA award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Tomasz Bagiński's short film The Kinematograph (2009) won the main prize at the prestigious international animation festival Animago 2009. Presenting an alternative history of how animation cinema began, it is an adaptation of a comic strip by Mateusz Skutnik from the volume Revolutions: Monochrome. The protagonist of the 12-minute film is Francis, an inventor working on something that will change the world. The designer, completely immersed in his work, forgets what price one has to pay for fulfilling one's dreams. As with his previous films, Bagiński proves his ability to tell fascinating stories in an extremely legible but also intriguing way. Once again, he plays with the "film within a film" convention, at the same time paying homage to the pioneers of the tenth muse.
Also in 2009, Bagiński directed the short film The Run, a project created in association with a beer producer. This was the first serious attempt at stereoscopic animated 3D cinema in Poland. Thanks to the new technology, the picture - a metaphor of human life in which the hero travels through different worlds, i.e. successive stages of existence - offers extraordinary depth and a great three-dimensional effect.
A few months before the opening of the Beijing Olympics, Bagiński made an animated short film entitled Made in China, commissioned by Reporters Without Borders and touching on the problem of human rights violations in China. It has yet to have its official premiere, becoming Bagiński's first "shelved" film. The director's recent projects also include a virtual set design for The Seven Gates of Jerusalem, combining a concert by Krzysztof Penderecki with animations produced by Platige Image. The film won the main prize at the International Television Festival in Prague (more...) and was nominated for the prestigious Rose d'Or and Emmy International 2009 awards.
At present, together with Platige Image, Bagiński is working on an epic film about the Warsaw Uprising, Hardkor 44. The picture, commissioned by the Warsaw Rising Museum, is planned as a pop-culture mélange featuring a story in comic book style, associations with the latest generation of computer games, and action films. Together, these are meant to create a modern story about the heroic insurgents, stimulating the imagination. The director is also getting ready to make a full-length adaptation of another story by Dukaj, Ruch generała / Iron General and a film entitled Wszyscy święci / All Saints.
Bagiński was the creator of the digital special effects for the films Quo Vadis (2001) and Superprodukcja / Superproduction (2002). He made animated films for the game Wiedźmin / The Witcher, for which he received a Visual Effects Society Award nomination. He also created illustrations for many of Jacek Dukaj's books, including the novel Lód / Ice.
The maker of The Cathedral has received numerous awards, including the Marcin Kołodyński Prize and a Belvedere International Achievement Award.
Author: Iwona Hałgas, November 2009