Adam Sikora is a documentary and feature film director, screenwriter, and cinematographer, as well as photographer, painter, pedagogue and Doctor of Cinema. He was born on 3rd May, 1960 in Mikołów.
Documentary and feature film director, screenwriter, and cinematographer, as well as photographer, painter, pedagogue and Doctor of Cinema.
Adam Sikora is a graduate of the Cinematography Department of the Łódź Film School (1988). While still a student, he created cinematography for several interesting short films, such as Maszeńka (Mary) (1985) by Stefan Chazbjiewicz – in collaboration with Maciej Jaszczak, Ricardo Torres Ramirez, Andrzej Musiał, and Andrzej Szulkowski. Ryszard i anioł (Ryszard and Angel) (1985) by Maciej Szelachowski – with Bartłomiej Frykowski and Hubert Taczanowski, Strażnik (The Guard) (1988) by Witold Szymczyk – in collaboration with Piotr Zajączkowski, Poznanie (1988), which he also directed, and Powrót do ‘Edenu’id' (Return to Eden) (1989) by Żivota Saratlic.
In a conversation with Bożena Perska, Sikora reminisced on the first years of his artistic career:
In the beginning I painted, which absorbed me a lot. I wasn't able to do it well, so I got involved in photography, because I thought it would be easier. I wanted to study photography, but at the time there wasn't a photography school in Poland, so all that was left for me was cinematography. I started attending cinematography department, even though I wasn't qualified. Film is a dynamic structure, a representation of the world in motion, it is a strange medium… I don't know if I will ever understand it, because I constantly aim for a frozen image – painting-like or photographic. My films are almost still.
Czakramy śląskiej energii. Z Adamem Sikorą, reżyserem, operatorem filmowym i fotografem rozmawia Bożena Perska (Chakras of Silesian Energy: Bożena Perska interviews Adam Sikora – director, cinematographer, and photographer), www.lartstudio.krakow.pl
After graduating, he returned to his hometown, Mikołów. He started working for Polish Television in Katowice, where, together with Jolanta Ptaszyńska and Leszek Ptaszyński, as well as Tomasz Dobrowolski, he founded Studio Form Telewizyjnych (with Adam Łukaszek as the production manager), which gained recognition thanks to its many interesting projects, such as Mój ołtarz (My Altar) (1995), for which Sikora was the screenwriter, director, and cinematographer, De Aegypto (1995) by Jolanta Ptaszyńska, a stylish impression inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead with music by Zbigniew Preisner and astonishing cinematography by Sikora and Dobrowolski. Teatr ekspresji (Expressive Theatre) (1994), realised together with Jacek Januszyk, deserves special praise. It documents the process of working on a performance inspired by Ingmar Bergman's oeuvre (whose working title was Sceny małżeńskie / Scenes from a Marriage), prepared by the titular theatre, which was led by Wojciech Misiura (its actors also starred in the above mentioned films).
I am very interested in his method of observing people, their everyday context, and how problems accumulate within it.
– the director of the play said about the Swedish artist.
Sikora observes the actors' strenuous attempts to follow the director's instructions and ‘show a warm touch, a cold touch, an ambivalent body, a lustful body, the need to be with someone, and also what it feels like when you push someone away, how much it hurts,’ and express all of these emotional and physical states through gestures and movements, without using words. These observations would later reverberate in Expelled (2010) – a full-length feature film inspired by the works of Samuel Beckett, also told through gestures and movements, without any words.
This is how Sikora described those pioneering times in the interview with Perska:
We happened to do it at a good time, that is, the early 90s, the moment of the transformation in Poland. Jerzy Kapuściński from Polish TV's Channel Two was really keen on ambitious, artistic broadcasting. We had the opportunity to realise ideas which nowadays would be unthinkable […]. It wasn't until after a few years of my own auteur projects that I started collaborating with other directors, creating cinematography for films and TV theatre shows. But the thing I appreciate the most is the possibility of making auteur films.
‘Czakramy śląskiej energii. Z Adamem Sikorą, reżyserem, operatorem filmowym i fotografem rozmawia Bożena Perska’ (Chakras of Silesian Energy. Bożena Perska interviews Adam Sikora – director, cinematographer, and photographer), www.lartstudio.krakow.pl
Sikora also mentioned in the same conversation that he never thought about moving out of Mikołów. It is a very telling statement. The stable, local anchorage is fully apparent in both his documentary and feature works, making him as strong an ambassador of Silesia and its people, with their everyday joys and worries, as Kazimierz Kutz – even though their means of expression are different. Matters that would seem local often gain a universal and timeless character in Sikora's movies. His faithfulness to the place from which he came and to which he returned has earned him the title of an Honorary Mikołów Resident.
The protagonist of his documentary film Bluesmeni. Ballada o Janku 'Kyksie' Skrzeku (The Bluesmen: A Ballad about Janek ‘Kyks’ Skrzek, 1999) was born in the nearby Siemanowice Śląskie. It is a rather unconventional attempt to paint a portrait of a miner and musician, successfully combining Silesian tradition with the blues. Jan, also known as Kyks, is the younger brother of Józef Skrzek, an educated, respected musician and composer, a close collaborator of Tadeusz Nalepa and Czesław Niemen – the leader of the legendary band SBB. Jan's biography is completely different – instead of attending music school, he started working at a mine, because at the end of the day someone needed to continue the family tradition, and their father was a foreman. However, music wouldn't leave him alone: he listened to the radio obsessively, admired The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and he eventually founded his own band with friends. They called themselves Bluesmeni. At one point, the paths of the miner and the musicians had to diverge.
Sikora paints a portrait of the musician by employing the expressive means of both documentary and feature cinema. Extremely staged scenes and exceptionally carefully composed frames prevail, which however does not make them unrealistic or inauthentic. This kind of creational documentary (this self-contradictory term may best describe the essence of this kind of cinema) was introduced in Poland by Wojciech Wiszniewski, the author of the superb Elementarz (ABC Books, 1976), Stolarz (A Joiner, 1976), or Sztygar na zagrodzie (Land-owning Steiger, 1978), with a miner and his family in the lead roles. In his ballad about Kyks, Sikora becomes an excellent continuator of this specific cinematic language.
Boże Ciało (Corpus Christi) (2005) is formally completely different. It is practically a documentary notation. Silesia and its residents. Unemployment, poverty, hopelessness. ‘Silesia is deteriorating. There is no future here’, an unemployed man complains. ‘Silesia is Silesia, I won't let it be taken away from me’, an elderly woman says. ‘The most important thing is not to give up, damn it, never’, insists a young boy, who is dreaming of a career as a rapper. They all gather at the annual Corpus Christi procession, even though when asked about the essence of this celebration by the film's author, they are not able to specify it. ‘Oh, my Silesia, you are dying in front of me in broad daylight’, Jan ‘Kyks’ Skrzek sang in Sikora's previous film. The lyrics of the song may act as a moving commentary to Corpus Christi.
One of the film's scenes later became the backbone of Sikora's feature début, Ewa (2010), realised in collaboration with Ingmar Villqist. The titular protagonist is singing the classic Polish song Czerwone słoneczko during a karaoke competition, and later talks about the depression which miners made redundant suffer from, as well as their wives, who have started working on the streets in order to support their families.
Sikora remains close to his pool of characters, who keep reappearing in different films: for instance, Jan ‘Kyks’ Skrzek, the hero of The Bluesmen, a few years later played a friend of the main protagonist's husband in Ewa, while previously he was featured in the documentary Erwin Sówka (2005) (where his music was used in the soundtrack). Sówka, a prominent primitivist painter from Silesia, a retired miner from the Wieczorek mine, and the only living member of the so called Janów Group, to which Lech Majewski dedicated his Angelus (2001), also appeared on Skrzek's 40th birthday party in The Bluesmen (the celebration was also attended by Krzysztof Siwczyk, the lead actor from Wojaczek and Expelled, and Maciej Melecki, Sikora's close collaborator on the latter film), while previously he was in the centre of Podróż Erwina (Erwin's Journey, 1997) by Mirosława Sikorska. The cinematography in Majewski's feature and Sikorska's documentary was created by no other than Adam Sikora.
The creational parts of Erwin Sówka, when its protagonist describes his art, dreams, ideas somewhat resemble The Bluesmen, while its notational fragments, where he shows his personal spots – Corpus Christi. Staged scenes blend here with documentary registration; the bright colours of artistic imagination meet the black and white of everyday life.
Sówka recounts his biography in an eloquent and reflective manner. ‘Every artist needs to carry a moral code within’, he claims decidedly. He talks about the life of an artist and of a miner with the same level of engagement. For Sówka, life, beauty, and existence were always symbolised by a woman, while a mine is, according to him, just like her interior – beautiful and mysterious. That is why women constitute the primary object of his personal and artistic interests. He met his future wife at twenty-one, when she was fifteen years old. They are together to this day.
Sikora's following documentary, Romowie. Skazani na zagładę (The Roma People: Doomed to Die) (2008), was somewhat different from his previous ones. It was commissioned by the Roma Association in Poland. It recalled the immense scale of the Nazi mass murder of the Roma population. Its story is recounted by Helena Majowska, a former Auschwitz prisoner, and Edward Paczkowski, one of the few survivors, who was detained at the age of twelve. Sentenced for his participation in the Polish resistance movement and unrecognised as a Roma person, he was sent to the central camp, from which he witnessed the extermination of his own nation. None of his closest relatives survived. Sikora juxtaposes Majowska's and Paczkowski's dramatic memories with contemporary photographs of Auschwitz – gloomy, foggy, and deserted. ‘Auschwitz, Auschwitz, your crematory burns night and day’, Paczkowski repeats in the finale of this poignant picture. At some point, his scream changes in to a song, a mourning song: ‘Auschwitz, Auschwitz, your crematory burns night and day…’
The main hero of Sikora's next film – Paweł (2009) – was Paweł Targiel (1945-2009), a poet, philosopher, and director of the Mikołów Institute – as is stated in the final frame of the 90-minute documentary, which in reality is not really a film, but rather a documentary notation, with hardly any editing at all. Sikora had a studio in Targiel's attic. When his host fell seriously ill and cancer began to aggressively intrude on his friend's body, Adam decided to document their conversations. The film comprises ten exchanges between them, conducted throughout the period of the advancing illness.
In a conversation with Tadeusz Sobolewski, published in Gazeta Wyborcza, Sikora said:
Even though we had known each other for years, we had never had such an intimate and heartfelt connection as during the time of his illness. You know how private Paweł was about the most sensitive part of his personality. He used to hide himself from people, he would be unpleasant and snarky. When the tumor came, he opened up. And not so much to me even, but to the camera. He started treating it as a neutral medium, in front of which he could allow himself to reveal his real face. When filming Paweł, I saw that dying is not just a destructive process, but that it can also be a process of developing some kind of deep knowledge about oneself and -about the ultimate matters. Paweł demonstrated a great, ‘Buddhist‘ wisdom. His death brought hope […] for the fact that death doesn't really exist and that it is only a transition. Something returns to the beginning, from which it started. It may come back from there or it may stay. It was a beautiful death.
Czarne słońce Mikołowa. Z Adamem Sikorą rozmawia Tadeusz Sobolewski (The Black Sun of Mikołów. Adam Sikora in Conversation with Tadeusz Sobolewski), Duży Format, 21.07.2010
Sikora does not focus exclusively on documentary – he has also created three full-length feature films. The main protagonist of Gigant (Giant) (2006) is a photographer, who after his fortieth birthday ventures on a metaphorical journey into himself. In 2010, he realised two, diametrically different, films: Ewa, a para-documentary story co-created with Ingmar Villqist, whose protagonist, a wife of an unemployed miner, becomes a prostitute in order to support her family, and Expelled, inspired by Samuel Beckett's writings (Endgame, First Love, Molloy), which relies exclusively on gestures, movement, and image, without any words.
The catalogue of the Era New Horizons Film Festival (now called T-Mobile New Horizons), where Expelled premiered, says:
Sikora's story enters a subtle dialogue with Alan Schneider's Film from 1965, on which Samuel Beckett collaborated. For members of the audience who remember the touching performance by Buster Keaton, Expelled will come across as a palimpsest of sorts, conjuring the figure of living in a strange world, from which we will be expelled to the void of death.
Expelled, 10th International Film Festival Era New Horizons, 22.07-1.08.2010 Wrocław
When presenting oppressive, or even depressive, states, Sikora nonetheless notice a spark of hope. In the aforementioned interview with Sobolewski, he says about Ewa:
This is not at all about Silesia, but about those people. Ewa could happen in any place in the world that is stricken by poverty. It is a story about real love, but so real that it is hard to believe in it.
Czarne słońce Mikołowa. Z Adamem Sikorą rozmawia Tadeusz Sobolewski (The Black Sun of Mikołów. Adam Sikora in Conversation with Tadeusz Sobolewski), Duży Format, 21.07.2010
He adds, referring to the Beckettian variation:
Someone told me that Expelled is the most depressing film they know. But there is a hope. Just like Paweł was about the possibility of transitioning to another zone – in Expelled, the boat in which the protagonist hides, promises such transition.
'Czarne słońce Mikołowa. Z Adamem Sikorą rozmawia Tadeusz Sobolewski' (The Black Sun of Mikołów. Adam Sikora in Conversation with Tadeusz Sobolewski), Duży Format, 21.07.2010
Along his screenwriting and directing practice, Sikora has been active in his trained profession, i.e. cinematography. He has created cinematography for nearly twenty documentary films and as many feature films, among of which he was mostly awarded and recognised for those co-realised with Lech Majewski: The Roe's Room (1997), Wojaczek (1999), Angelus (2001), The Mill and the Cross (2010), Jerzy Skolimowski: Four Nights with Anna (2008), Essential Killing (2010), and Piotr Dumała: The Forest (2009). He has worked for television ever since graduating from the Łódź Film School – he has been the DP on approximately thirty Television Theatre shows. He moreover lectures at the Radio and Television Department of the University of Silesia in Katowice.
- 1994 – Teatr ekspresji / Expressive Theatre, co-screenwriter and co-director, together with Jacek Januszyk, DP;
- 1995 – De Aegypto (dir. Jolanta Ptaszyńska), co-cinematographer, together with Tomasz Dobrowolski;
- 1995 – Mój ołtarz / My Altar, screenwriter, director, DP;
- 1997 – Podróż Erwina / Erwin's Journey (dir. Mirosława Sikorska), DP;
- 1997 – Wielka woda / The Great Water (dir. Piotr Łazarkiewicz), DP;
- 1998 – Więcej światła. Festiwal Operatorów Filmowych Camerimage '97 / More Light: International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography Camerimage '97 (dir. Piotr Łazarkiewicz), DP;
- 1999 – Bluesmeni. Ballada o Janku 'Kyksie' Skrzeku / The Bluesmen: A Ballad About Janek 'Kyks' Skrzek, screenwriter, director, DP. Award: National Short Film Festival in Kraków 2000 – First Film Award;
- 1999 – Skandalistka Kasia K. / The Scandalous Kasia K. (dir. Grażyna Bryżuk), DP;
- 2003 – Magdalena Abakanowicz (dir. Jarosław Maszewski, Jacek Kubiak), DP;
- 2003 – Węgiel / Coal (dir. Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz, Joanna Sławińska), DP;
- 2005 – Droga na ośmiotysięcznik / The Way to the Eight-thousander, screenwriter, director, DP;
- 2005 – Boże Ciało / Corpus Christi, screenwriter, director, DP. Awards: NURT National Independent Review of Documentary Forms 2005 – Award of the President of the TVP SA Board, Kraków Film Festival 2006 – Silver Lajkonik, International Documentary Film Festival in Canton – Best Director;
- 2005 – Sówka Erwin / Erwin Sówka, sscreenwriter, director, DP;
- 2007 – Wilcza 11. Telepatrzydło (dir. Aleksandra Domańska), DP;
- 2008 – Historia polskiego rocka / The History of Polish Rock, documentary series (dir. Leszek Gnoiński, Wojciech Słota), archival footage (ep. 2-6);
- 2008 – Jerzy Gurawski. Człowiek w przestrzeni / Jerzy Gurawski: A Man in Space (dir. Mirosława Sikorska), DP;
- 2008 – Romowie. Skazani na zagładę / The Roma People: Doomed to Die, co-director and co-screenwriter, together with Wiesław Gajda, DP;
- 2009 – Paweł, screenwriter, director, DP, producer.
- 1994 – Dama kameliowa / The Lady of the Camellias (dir. Jerzy Antczak), co-cinematographer, together with Tomasz Dobrowolski;
- 1997 – Drugi brzeg / The Other Shore (dir. Magdalena Łazarkiewicz), DP. Award: International TV Theatre Festival in Plovdiv 1998 – award for cinematography;
- 1997 – Pokój saren / The Roe's Room (dir. Lech Majewski), DP;
- 1999 – Wojaczek (dir. Lech Majewski), cinematographer. Awards: nomination for Orzeł – Polish Film Award 2000 for best cinematography in 1999, Tarnów Film Award 2000 – Silver Leliwita Statuette, International Film Festival in Trenčianske Teplice 2000 – Golden Key, National Film Festival Prowincjonalia in Września 2000 – critics award;
- 2001 – Angelus (dir. Lech Majewski), DP. Awards: International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography Camerimage in Łódź 2001 – Silver Frog, National Film Festival in Września 2002 – Jańcio Wodnik Award for cinematography, nomination for Orzeł – Polish Film Award 2002 for best cinematography in 2001;
- 2001 – Eucalyptus (dir. Marcin Krzyształowicz), DP. Award: nomination for Orzeł – Polish Film Award 2003;
- 2003 – Koniec wakacji / End of Summer (dir. Marcin Krzyształowicz), DP;
- 2005 – Boża podszewka. Część druga / God's Lining 2, TV series (dir. Izabella Cywińska), DP;
- 2006 – Gigant / Giant, screenwriter, director, DP;
- 2006 – My Baby, TV series (dir. Łukasz Wylężałek), DP;
- 2008 – Cztery noce z Anną / Four Nights with Anna (dir. Jerzy Skolimowski), DP. Awards: Orzeł – Polish Film Award for best cinematography in 2009, National Film Festival Prowincjonalia in Września 2009 – award for cinematography;
- 2009 – Las / The Forest (dir. Piotr Dumała), cinematography. Award: International Film Festival in Cuenca 2009 – award for cinematography;
- 2009 – Podezreni / Presumed Innocent (dir. Lenka Kny, production: Czech Republic and Poland), DP;
- 2010 – Essential Killing (reż. Jerzy Skolimowski), DP;
- 2010 – Ewa, co-screenwriter and co-director with Ingmar Villqist, DP. Awards: Era New Horizons International Film Festival in Wrocław 2010 – award for best debut in the New Polish Cinema competition, International Film Festival Regiofun in Katowice 2010 – 2nd prize;
- 2010 – Wydalony / Expelled, screenwriter, director, DP;
- 2010 – Młyn i krzyż / The Mill and the Cross (dir. Lech Majewski), DP;
- 2010 – Ixjana. Z piekła rodem / Ixjana (dir. Józef Skolimowski, Michał Skolimowski), DP;
- 2010 – Moja Australia / My Australia (dir. Ami Drozd, production: Poland and Israel), DP;
- 2011 – Igor and the Crayne's Journey (dir. Evgeny Ruman), DP;
- 2012 – Wszystkie kobiety Matuesza / All Mateusz's Women (dir. Artur Więcek 'Baron'), DP;
- 2012 – Ve Stinu / In the Shadow (dir. David Ondříček), DP;
- 2012 – Ixjana (dir. Józef Skolimowski, Michał Skolimowski);
- 2015 – Walser (dir. Zbigniew Libera), DP;
- 2015 – Já, Olga Hepnarová / I, Olga Hepnarova (dir. Petr Kazda, Tomáš Weinreb), DP.
TV Theatre shows
- 1993 – Biała noc / The White Night (dir. Tomasz Dobrowolski), DP;
- 1995 – Dzika kaczka / The Wild Duck (dir. Agnieszka Glińska), DP;
- 1996 – Gry przedmałżeńskie / Premarital Games (dir. Urszula Urbaniak), DP;
- 1996 – Tryptyk / Triptych (dir. Urszula Urbaniak), DP;
- 1997 – Diabelski patrol / A Diabolic Patrol (dir. Urszala Urbaniak), DP;
- 1997 – Figurki pana Gracjana / Gracjan's Figurines (dir. Marek Pawłowski), DP;
- 1998 – Duże i małe / Big and Small (dir. Piotr Łazarkiewicz), DP;
- 1998 – Dziennik uczuć / Journal of Emotions (dir. Ewa Sałużanka), DP;
- 1998 – Gdy tańczyła Isadora / Dancing Isadora (dir. Małgorzata Łazarkiewicz), co-cinematographer, together with Tomasz Dobrowolski;
- 1999 – Puste niebo / A Lonely Sky (dir. Henryk Baranowski), DP;
- 2000 – Ogień w głowie / Burning Head (dir. Piotr Łazarkiewicz), DP;
- 2002 – Lord Jim (dir. Laco Adamik), DP. Award: Two Theatres National Film Festival of the Polish Radio and Television Theatre in Sopot 2003 – award for cinematography;
- 2002 – Święta wiedźma / Saint Witch (dir. Henryk Baranowski), DP;
- 2003 – Cicho / Silently (dir. Adam Guziński), DP;
- 2004 – Antygona / Antigone (dir. Andrzej Seweryn), DP;
- 2004 – Geza-dzieciak / Geza-The Kid (dir. Zbigniew Brzoza). Award: Two Theatres National Film Festival of the Polish Radio and Television Theatre in Sopot 2005 – award for cinematography;
- 2004 – Intryga i miłość / Love and Intrigue (dir. Maciej Prus), DP. Award: Two Theatres National Film Festival of the Polish Radio and Television Theatre in Sopot 2005 – award for cinematography;
- 2004 – Noc jest matką dnia / Night – a Mother of Day (dir. Henryk Baranowski), DP;
- 2004 – Prezent / The Gift (dir. Łukasz Wylężałek), DP;
- 2005 – Dzikuska / Savage Woman (dir. Łukasz Wylężałek), DP;
- 2005 – Helmucik (dir. Ingmar Villquist), DP;
- 2006 – Umarli ze Spoon River / Spoon River (dir. Jolanta Ptaszyńska), DP;
- 2007 – Pierwszy września / 1st September (dir. Krzysztof Lang), DP;
- 2008 – Kwatera bożych pomyleńców / Quarters of God's Fools (dir. Jerzy Zalewski), DP;
- 2008 – Tajny współpracownik / The Secret Collaborator (dir. Krzysztof Lang), DP;
- 2009 – Opowiadania dla dzieci / Short Stories for Children (dir. Piotr Cieplak), DP;
- 2010 – Psie głowy (dir. Jerzy Zalewski), DP;
- 2013 – Trzy razy Fredro / Three Times Fredro (dir. Jerzy Stuhr), DP, lighting designer.
Author: Jerzy Armata, November 2010, update: KM, January 2016, transl. AM, June 2016