The year belonged to young, talented and curious directors and actors who aren't scared of artistic experimentation. Culture.pl presents the top 10 films of the past year.
The Krakow Film Festival didn't give much cause for excitement either. There was nothing as moving as last year's Father and Son by Paweł Łoziński, Love by Filip Dzierżawski or Diary of a Journey by Piotr Stasik. However, Jerzy Kucia's stunning Fugue for Cello, Trumpet and Landscape proved that 2014 belonged to young, talented and open-minded directors and actors who seek out courageous new forms of cinema.
Presenting the 10 directors and set designers, animators and documentary makers, actors and cameramen who deserved the spotlight in 2014:
Krzysztof Skonieczny – Hardkor Disko
The 31-year-old director Krzysztof Skonieczny wreaked havoc in the Polish film industry in 2014. He is an experienced actor and creator of music videos, and winner of several awards. Hardkor Disko is his first feature. His protagonist is a mysterious stranger who also wreaks havoc in the lives of ordinary citizens.
Skonieczny proved that he is not one to follow the rules. He quotes Passolini, Kieślowski and Haneke, resorts to music video-esque, fast-paced shots juxtaposed with contemplative frames of a several-minute-long conversation filmed from a single angle. He experiments, searches, irritates, intrigues, thinks the image through and has an ear for dialogue. But there's something more to the young director. He watches the work of others, and knows how to tell a story to contemporary audiences. He shares his curiosity with the viewer.
Hardkor Disko is an important first film and one of the best débuts of the last decade. His cinematic voice is strong and outspoken. Skonieczny was rewarded for his efforts with an award at the Koszalin Young film festival and the award for Best Young Director at the Gdynia Film Festival. I and many others are waiting impatiently for his next film.
Jaśmina Polak – Hardkor Disko, Warsaw 44, Citizen
The young actress was in the spotlight for the entire year. In Hardkor Disko she appeared side by side with Marcin Kowalczyk. Their joint performance was the talk of the town for the last 12 months. Jaśmina Polak won the Best Debut award at the Gdynia Film Festival. To all her roles she brings energy and truth with the right dose of insolence.
In 2012 she played in Aleksandra Terpińska's award-winning student film All Soul's Day. Polak was charismatic and showed she had talent. Her next roles were theatrical – Ivan Vyrypaev's UFO: Contact and Marcin Wrona's The Morality of Mrs Dulska.
She has been a household regular since 2013. She played in the World War II drama series Days of Honour and on the big screen in Jan Komasa's Warsaw 44 and Jerzy Stuhr's Citizen. Audiences will get a chance to see more of her in 2015 in Jerzy Zieliński's comedy King of Life.
Her career has just started, but in her first roles she has already earned herself an important place among Polish actresses.
Krzysztof Rak – Gods
The biggest success in Polish cinematography in 2014. Gods (Bogowie) is a biopic about a cardiologist who changed the face of medicine. Zbigniew Religa led the team that performed the first successful heart transplantation. Directed by Łukasz Palkowski, the film mixes comedy with drama and deeply analyses the Polish People's Republic through the prism of medicine. Krzysztof Rak, the film's scriptwriter received the award for Best Script at the Gdynia Film Festival. And that's not – the film received five awards at the Gdynia Festival and has had over 2 million viewers.
"BOGOWIE" - oficjalny zwiastun from Culture.pl on Vimeo.
Gods is Rak's second script. Before turning to features he worked as a producer of documentaries. He worked with many accomplished documentary film directors, among others Marcin Koszałka, Jacek Bławut, Robert Gliński. Rak was also a TV reporter. He co-authored the script to Michał Rogalski's The Last Action. His script for Gods was his first independent script. He showed talent and a knack for drama. It's also humorous and paints a psychological portrait of the protagonists.
Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski – Domino Effect
Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski are the authors of the best Polish documentary of 2014. They travelled to Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia to tell the story of a unique couple. Domino Effect is the story of Rafael and Natasha. They live in Sukhumi. He is a minister for sport and the much younger Natasha is a Russian opera singer. They couldn't find a place in the small North Caucasian republic.
EFEKT DOMINA - TRAILER from OtterFilms on Vimeo.
Through Niewiera and Rosołowski, the personal drama of two people becomes a story about national identity. Local and global narratives meet in a moving portrait. No wonder the jury of the 54th Krakow Film Festival awarded their efforts and bestowed on them three awards: for Best Polish Film, Best Director and Best Cinematographer (Piotr Rosołowski was the director and cinematographer).
Tomek Ducki – Baths
Six years after his last release – his debut Life line (Youtube video) – Tomek Ducki is back with a new film. With a dose of humour and melancholy, the four-minute Baths is a portrait of everyday life suspended between life and death. It's not the first time for Ducki – in his great debut film he was on the same quest.
Baths is the story of two elderly swimmers who train every day. Ducki creates a metaphor about evanescence and swimming in the waters of life. The short is visually pleasing and well-edited. Plus, it's not just metaphorical but also anecdotal.
Łaźnia - Baths - Trailer 2013 from Tomek Ducki on Vimeo.
At the 54th Krakow Film Festival Ducki competed with the creme de la creme of Polish animation: Jerzy Kucia and Piotr Dumała. And I assume that's the only reason why instead of an award he went home with a mention. Nevertheless, his film was awarded at festivals abroad, among others in Switzerland, Portugal, Finland, Mexico, Japan, and the United States.
Grzegorz Jaroszuk – Kebab and Horoscope
Grzegorz Jaroszuk directed the most "Czech" Polish film of recent years. Kebab and Horoscope, his full-length debut shows promise and artistic courage. The film is a comedy of the absurd and grotesque. No cheap laughs and stupid gags, the humour comes from understatements and distance to the story.
The plot is about two losers whose life is about to be turned upside down. They decide to make money by pretending to be marketing consultants. Dressed up and talking the talk they are supposed to save an unpopular carpet store from bankruptcy.
Jaroszuk looks at the situation from the perspective of the protagonists. He shows a good-natured shop owner repressed by his rich wife, an old employee who wants to be useful, a football fan and his admirer – an intern. All of them are funny, nerdy and a bit strange. Jaroszuk proves that they all need each other.
Kebab and Horoscope has not come to the cinemas yet (opening on February 13th 2015), but it has already garnered awards at festivals in London and Gdynia. This is yet another great film from Jaroszuk who made himself a name with the student film Frozen Stories (trailer). It's been a while since Poland has had such a sensitive director who knows how to use irony as a cinematic tool.
Aneta Kopacz – Joanna
In only twelve months, Aneta Kopacz's Joanna received over twenty awards at international film festivals. Joanna and Tomasz Śliwiński's Our Curse are two documentaries that stand a chance to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject.
Joanna tells the true story of Joanna Sałyga, the author of the blog Chustka (Scarf) who, for two years, described her fight with cancer until her death.
"JOANNA" - trailer filmu dokumentalnego Anety Kopacz, autor: Piotr Mendelowski from Wajda Studio on Vimeo.
The first-rate camera work of Łukasz Żal and music by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek make the film delicate, relatable and full of feeling such as longing and love. Dying is not used to provoke pity in the viewers but shows the beauty of everyday life.
Wojciech Sobczyk – Summer 2014
Wojciech Sobczak created an excellent animation. The twelve-minute-long Summer 2014 is a story driven by aggression and violence. The animation is raw in form. The first scene takes place on a battlefield where two armies face off. A fire destroys everything in its reach. When the dust settles, new warriors appear only to cause bloodshed once again.
Sobczyk shows history as a cycle of wars and plagues. The film received the Prix Efa 2014 for Best European Film at the Krakow Film Festival. It's one of 15 films competing for the European Film Award in the Short Feature category.
Kacper Fertacz – Hardkor Disko
The cinematographer of Hardkor Disko received the Best Cinematographer Award at the Gdynia Film Festival and the Golden Frog at the Camerimage festival for cinematographers. The film was his feature debut. He played an important role in making a great film on a small budget.
In Hardkor Disko he filmed the protagonists from up close, he followed in their footsteps and observed from a distance. He metaphorically used music video-like shots side by side with several-minute-long master shots to portray the meeting of two very different worlds.
Fertacz's name was already know in Poland for his work on documentaries (cinematography for Deep Love). But he seems to have found his rightful place with features. Coming to the cinemas in 2015 is Michal Kollar's The Red Captain, a Polish-Czech-Slovak co-production starring Maciej Stuhr as detective Richard Krauz. Cinematography by Fertacz.
Zofia Wichłacz – Warsaw 44
Not many expected her to win the Best Female Lead Role award at the 39th Gdynia Film Festival. But the eighteen-year-old proved that she was worth it.