Films by young directors and foreign filmmakers working in Poland, intriguing animations, shorts, moving documentaries, and feature dramas – here are the best debut films of 2013
Still from the film Ab Ovo, dir. Anita Kwiatkowska-Naqvi, photo: Młodzi i Film.
Films by young directors and foreign filmmakers working in Poland, intriguing animations, shorts, moving documentaries and feature dramas – here are the best debut films of 2013.
1. Mazurek, Julia Kolberger
Still from the film Mazurek, dir. Julia Kolberger, photo: Michał Panasiuk/Studio Munka
Urszula (Kinga Preis) is preparing for Easter breakfast. Her daughter (Marta Juras), who is studying in the U.K., is bringing her fiancé home for the holidays. Problems arise when the family discovers he is 30 years her senior. A family squabble gives rise to an avalanche of accusations, breakfast turns into dinner, and Urszula faces the worst day of her life. This debut 30-minute film by Julia Kolberger is a story about a family in which everyone hides a shameful secret.
2. Flying Blind / Zaślepiona, Katarzyna Klimkiewicz
In her 40s, Frankie (Helen McCrory) leads a well-rounded life. As an engineer, she oversees the construction of unmanned fighter craft. One day she meets Kahil (Najib Oudghiri), a young French-Algerian student who is suspected of having ties with terrorists. Katarzyna Klimkiewicz’s film was made as part of a program organized by the city of Bristol to support young filmmakers. Despite her limited budget, the director created a full-blooded erotic thriller the likes of which Polish cinema has not seen for many years.
3. Arena, Martin Rath
A young man goes to the Bieszczady Mountains in southern Poland. Captivated by their allure and ferocity, he decides to test himself and become a part of this harsh world. But entry there comes at a price. The debut by Martin Rath, the German director, creates an atmosphere of mystery and ambiguity in Poland. Excellent cinemaphotography by Bartosz Świniarski and the role by Marcin Kowalczyk (Jesteś Bogiem) make this one of the best short films of 2013.
4. The Unknown Henryk Fast / Niewiadoma Henryka Fasta, Agnieszka Elbanowska
Still from the film The Unknown Henryk Fast, dir. Agnieszka Elbanowska, photo: Młodzi i Film.
“I can resist anything except temptation” – Henryk Fast, mathematics professor emeritus, proudly endorses the words of Oscar Wilde. No longer a youth, he still feels young. After years at a U.S. university, he returns to Poland to spend the rest of his life and find a new love – someone beautiful, young and selfless. Agnieszka Elbanowska's documentary debut, full of warm humor, is a portrait of a dreamer and a Don Juan – and a story of youth not accepting the dictates of age.
5. The Visit / Odwiedziny, Matej Bobrik
Still from the film The Visit, dir. Matej Bobrik, photo: Studio Munka.
On Sunday morning, residents of a nursing home prepare for visitors. They wait for family members who find the time to visit. Dressed in festive clothes, freshly shaved, they look into the woods, hoping to catch of glimpse of arriving guests. This 11-minute study from Slovak director Matej Bobrik, working at the Łódź Film School, is a moving tale of loneliness and desperate longing for another person.
6. Left Side of the Face / Lewa połowa twarzy, Marcin Bortkiewicz
Leszek Krutulski is a photographer. Since 2010 he has traveled the country and captured “half-portraits” of those who agree to sit in front of his lens – he shoots only the left side of their faces. In 2020, he plans to start shooting the right side of faces. Standing behind the camera, he talks with his subjects about the passage of time. A supporter of Krutulski and his subjects, Marcin Bortkiewicz has created an unpretentious documentary about human hopes and fears.
7. Ab Ovo, Anita Kwiatkowska-Naqvi
Still from the film Ab Ovo, dir. Anita Kwiatkowska-Naqvi, photo: Młodzi i Film.
What would happen if your body was no longer just yours? If someone else lived inside it and began to dictate terms of your existence…if they took up more and more space, not caring that things inside were getting crowded. Would you be able to love that someone, to call him a child? This remarkable claymation from Anita Kwitkowska-Naqvi is an unexpected story of motherhood, and one of the interesting Polish-animation debuts in recent years.
8. To Thy Heart / Do serca twego, Ewa Borysewicz
He was handsome, had raven black hair and stood by a swing. When he smiled, hairs would stand on end. Life with him was colorful – even when he gave rein to his paranoia, she would do whatever he said. She wanted to stay up all night to listen to him talk. He ate up her thighs with relish. Until all her hope was lost. She refused to forgive his betrayal. Ewa Borysewicz’s animation is a secular litany and a story of a relationship, resounding through a tower-block estate, which ended with bitter disappointment.
9. Killing Auntie / Zabicie ciotki, Mateusz Głowacki
Ewa Kolasińska in Killing Auntie, dir. Mateusz Głowacki, photo: Młodzi i Film.
“There’s no doubt my aunt is dead. Lying still, a thin trickle of blood runs down from God knows where – she has no visible wounds. Taking her by the shoulders, I turn her over – face up. There is no doubt this is a corpse. ‘Corpse’ – I pronounce it softly – ‘corpse, corpse, corpse….” Mateusz Głowacki’s Killing Auntie is a story of struggle with his own demons, based on an unfinished novel by Andrzej Bursa from 1957.
10. The Big Leap, Kristoffer Karlsson Rus
There are three of them – a woman and two men. One day they meet on the roof of a skyscraper. They all have the same intention – they want to commit suicide. Why? They feel helpless in the face of the rising toll of the growing financial crisis. In these circumstances there arises a conflict among the characters – each of them has a different opinion on life after death. Sarah is a believer, John an atheist and agnostic Ben remains undecided. Taking the big leap will be the only way to find out who among them is right.
11. Arena, Piotr Bernaś
Marcin Różalski in the film Arena, dir. Piotr Bernaś, photo: Studio Munka.
What are the reasons for a man’s quest for self-destruction? What motivates a man to choose a life of eternal struggle, mutilating his body and risking his health? Arena is a film about contemporary games, arenas and gladiators. The documentary by Peter Bernaś offers a nonverbal impression of Marcin Różalski, a Polish MMA competitor. It is a story of pain, sacrifice and solitude from which there is no escape.
12. The Photograph / Zdjęcie, Maciej Adamek
At 17, Adam finds an old photograph of his mother with a strange man. Intrigued by his discovery, he embarks on a quest to find the truth of his paternity. Maciej Adamek’s screenplay for The Photograph received first prize in the 2006 Hartley-Merrill competition, and in 2012 the film was awarded the Silver Zenit in Montreal at the 36th International Film Festival.
13. Kamchatka / Kamczatka, Jerzy Kowynia
Stach is serving out a prison sentence of several years. When his mother commits suicide, he receives a pass to attend her funeral. At home he meets with his long-unseen father, his sister Marta, and her boyfriend. Over a long conversation, family secrets are revealed.
Jerzy Kowynia was honored at the 32nd Youth and Film Festival in Koszalin, where the jury also lauded the excellent performances of Tomasz Sobczak and Edyta Torhan.
14. The Mother / Matka, Łukasz Ostalski
Danuta Stenka i Rafał Fudalej in the film The Mother, dir. Łukasz Ostalski, photo: Młodzi i Film.
Małgorzata, an important politician, is headed to her lake house. Her son – a drug addict – needs help. Małgorzata asks her daughter for support. Upon arrival, they discover him semi-conscious, and the mutilated body of a young girl. In the face of tragedy, their relationships become further complicated as repressed traumas are revealed. In the end, Małgorzata must make the hardest decision of her life. This debut by Łukasz Ostalski features Danuta Stenka in the lead role and received the Audience Award at the 43rd International Film Festival in Tampere, Finland.
15. Olena, Elżbieta Benkowska
Olena and Dima are traveling from Ukraine through Poland, en route to Sweden. On their journey, they are robbed and in the struggle a passport flies out the window. The young travelers have to find it before they can depart on the ferry to Sweden. As they search, the real reason for their trip comes to light. This debut film by Elżbieta Benkowska represented iPoland in Cannes at the short competition of the 66th International Film Festival.
Source: press materials, personal sources
Edited: BS 02.07.2013
Translation: AA 03.07.2013