Taking roles in dramas, historical films and even psychological thrillers about young killers; here are the most talented kids in Polish cinema.
Kids from Polish cinema, photo: Studio Filmowe OKO/Filmoteka Narodowa/www.fototeka.fn.org.pl, Kino Świat, Monolith Films, Studio Filmowe Kadr / Filmoteka Narodowa/www.fototeka.fn.org.pl
Why are Polish child actors so much more heartrending than their counterparts in the U.S.? Because, while we all remember fondly courageous preteens fighting burglars or bullies, these little mafiosos and war heroes from Poland play in the big leagues.
Kamil Tkacz - Life Feels Good
Kamil Tkacz and Dorota Kolak in Maciej Pieprzyca’s Life Feels Good, photo: Paweł Dyllus/ Kino Świat.
Talent in its purest form, Tkacz’s performance was the second greatest revelation at Gdynia Film Festival 2013, second only to his adult co-star Dawid Ogrodnik. In director Maciej Pieprzyca’s Life Feels Good the lead character, Mateusz, is shown in various stages of his growth into a young man with a severe case of cerebral palsy. Tkacz precedes Ogrodnik, the adult Mateusz, with a marvelously well-acted version of the character's younger self. Their relationship was an important component in the development of a cohesive character. “When I developed a new gesture, I immediately showed it to him”, Ogrodnik said of the nature of their interactions. “After a while I saw that Kamil mimics my movements perfectly, doing the same faces, flexing his fingers the same way…”
Life Feels Good is not the only film where you can observe the young thespian’s talent. He also has a role in Pepe Danquart’s LAUF JUNGE LAUF (RUN, BOY, RUN), a role he shared with his twin brother. The film won an Oscar in 1994 and tells the story of a Jewish boy who escapes from the Warsaw ghetto.
Olga Frycz – Weiser
Olga Frycz in Wojciech Marczewski's Weiser, photo: Gutek Film.
In 2000, director Wojciech Marczewski cast 14-year-old Frycz to play the role of the main character’s best friend in Weiser, a film adaptation of the great novel by Paweł Huelle, Weiser Dawidek. A mysterious story about childhood, this very impressionable film about the curious world of a shy girl revealing her erotic adolescence is imbued with a nostalgic atmosphere.
Today Frycz is one of the most successful young actresses in Poland. This comes as no surprise when seeing her natural girlish charm in movies like Wszystko, co kocham / All That I Love, Maraton tańca / Dance Marathon and the recent release Płynące wieżowce / Floating Skyscrapers.
Marek Kondrat – Story of the Golden Boot
Marek Kondrat in Sylwester Chęciński's Story of the Golden Boot, photo: Fototeka Filmoteki Narodowej.
Marek Kondrat is best known for his role as the strict Commissioner Halski from Wojciech Wójcik’s TV series Ekstradycja (Extradition) as well as his performance in Psy / Dogs directed by Władysław Pasikowski, a role he played at age 11. It was thanks to that movie that he was hired to play in the cult family film directed by Sylwester Chęciński, Historia żółtej ciżemki / Story of the Golden Boot.
The movie, based on a novel by Antonina Domańska, tells the story of a talented young sculptor, Wawrzek, who goes on to work for the great master artist Wit Stwosz. The story culminates in the unveiling of Stwosz’s masterpiece, the Altar of St. Mary’s Church in Kraków. Kondrat appeared next to fine actors including Gustaw Holoubek (Wit Stwosz), Bronisław Pawlik and Bogumił Kobiela. The film marked Kondrat’s debut; over time he has become one of the most popular actors in Poland and has developed a very impressive career.
Filip Garbacz - Piggies
Filip Garbacz in Robert Gliński’s Piggies, photo: MonolithFilms.
Specializing in strong roles, Garbacz is the one of the most talented actors to emerge on the scene. In 2009 he was awarded the Golden Lion at the Gdynia Film Festival for his feature debut, in Robert Gliński’s Świnki (Piggies). The director entrusted a difficult role to Garbaczof, then 15, of playing a teenage boy living in a border town and selling his body to rich pedophiles. Critics hailed the performance, declaring that it raised the bar with the quality of the performance.
One year later Garbacz received the award for Best Male Role at the festival in Karlovy Vary for his performance in Paweł Sala’s Matka Teresa od Kotów / Mother Teresa Of Cats. A story about a mother who is murdered by her two sons, the film is a metaphor for the condition of the Polish family. Garbarcz’s other notable films include Agnieszka Holland’s W ciemności / In Darkness and Magdalena Łazarkiewicz’s Maraton tańca / Dance Marathon.
Henryk Gołębiewski – I Bet on Tolek Banana
Henryk Gołębiewski in Janusz Nasfeter's Abel, Your Brother, photo: Fototeka Filmoteki Narodowej.
Nearly all Polish moviegoers would likely recognize Gołębiewski’s face. A childhood hero for several generations, he grew up playing roles in family franchises by Stanisław Jędryka and Janusz Nasfeter. Wakacje z duchami / Holidays with Ghosts),Abel, twój brat / Abel, Your Brother, Podróż za jeden uśmiech / A Trip for a Smile, Koniec wakacji / The End of Vacation and Stawiam na Tolka Banana / I Bet on Tolek Banana are all considered classic television series.
When he made his first appearance on screen in 1970 as a 14-year-old bully, his slight lisp turned him into a favourite amongst audiences. Yet he never became a major film star. Over the years he slowly disappeared - until 2002, when Piotr Trzaskalski cast him in his blockbuster film Edim.
Wojciech Klata – 300 Miles to Heaven
Rafał Zimowski and Wojciech Klata in Maciej Dejczer's 300 Miles to Heaven, photo: Fototeka Filmoteki Narodowej.
It is rare that a 14-year-old actor is nominated for Best Lead Actor at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia, but Wojchiech Klata holds this honour. Klata received the nomination for his role in the 1990 film 300 mil do nieba / 300 Miles to Heaven. Klata’s role as Grześ Kwiatkowski, in a story about a young boy and his brother who illegally escape from a poor village to Sweden, won the sympathy of audiences for his tearful scenes and heartwrenching phone conversations with his parents.
Directors began scrambling to hire Klata after his parts in films - including Andrzej Wajda’s Pierscionek z orlem w koronie / The Crowned-Eagle Ring and Korczak, Krzysztof Kieślowski’s TV series Dekalog / Decalogue, as well as Steven Spielberg’s Schindler's List.
Bożena Fedorczyk – Butterflies
Bożena Fedorczyk in Janusz Nasfeter's Butterflies, photo: Fototeka Filmoteki Narodowej.
Young audiences have connected well with the films directed by Janusz Nasfeter, likely because of his “fascination with the world of childhood. It is a poetic world unlike any other”, as one critic put it. He is behind such television hits as Abel, twój brat / Abel, Your Brother, Królowa pszczół / The Queen Bee, Kolorowe pończochy / Coloured Stockings and Motyle / Butterflies.
It was in Butterflies that one of the greatest child actors in Poland was discovered. At age 11, Bożena Fedorczyk played Monika, a city girl who wins the heart of young Edek while on a lakeside vacation. The young actress crafted a critically acclaimed performance as a seductive heroine. Her natural on-screen presence earned her another role in a Nasfeter film, Nie będę Cię kochać / I Won't Love You. Her career concluded with a part in the 1976 Brazilian drama La Menor.
Marcin Walewski – Venice
Marcin Walewski in Jan Jakub Kolski’s Venice, photo: ITI Cinema.
In 2010 Marcin Walewski won the award from Best Acting Debut at the Gdynia Film Festival. Only 13, he already had an impressive filmography. At age 6 he appeared in Władysław Pasikowski’s TV series Glina / Cop and for years afterward he continued to take parts in television and film entertainments, including a role in Andrzej Barański’s movie Braciszek / The Friar.
He was granted the main male role in Jan Jakub Kolski’s Wenecja / Venice, a story about childhood destroyed by war. The director used the narrative tale as a starting point for a film about dreams and imagination. Through this film Walewski became a recognizable cinematic figure, and in the past years he has been seen in the TV series Szpiedzy w Warszawie / Spies of Warsaw based on the bestselling novel by Alan Furst, and in Janusz Zaorski’s film Syberiada Polska / Polish Sibiriad.
Justyna Ciemny – The Devils, The Devils
Justyna Ciemny in Dorota Kędzierzawska’s The Devils, The Devils, photo: Promotional material.
Dorota Kędzierzawska’s movies are full of child heroes and creative young artists, showcasing her unique ability to direct young talent. Evidence of this can be seen in Justyna Ciemny’s ambiguous, understated performance in Diabły, diabły / The Devils, The Devils. She plays a young girl fascinated by gypsies who arrive in her village, turning toward the strangers with curiosity in spite of the fears of her community.
Adam Siemion - All That Really Matters
Adam Siemion in Robert Gliński’s All That Really Matters, photo: Promotional material.
As one of the most prominent child actors in Poland in the 1990s, Adam Siemion played parts in Andrzej Wajda’s Korczak and Panna Nikt / Miss Nobody, Sylwester Checinski’s Rozmowach kontrolowanych / Controlled Conversations, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler's List, and Krystyna Janda’s Pestka / The Pip.
However, his best performance is in Robert Gliński’s Wszystko, co najważniejsze / All That Really Matters as the son of the great Polish poet Aleksander Wat.
Bartosz Staszczyszyn, 10/10/2013, translation SMG: 10/10/2013