Feature and documentary film director, writer and producer, born 17 August 1963 in Warsaw.
Feature and documentary film director, writer, and producer.
Jakimowski made his first films - non-realistic miniatures - as a secondary school student, using a 16 mm spring-driven Krasnogorsk camera. Having obtained his baccalaureate certificate he failed direction entrance examinations and instead became a student of philosophy at Warsaw University, but later succeeded in becoming a student of directing at the Radio and Television Department of the Silesian University in Katowice, from which he graduated in 1990.
Jakimowski's debut was the thirty-minute long film Pogłos ["Aftersound"] (1991); it received a prize at the Jazz Film Salon - the International Jazz Film Festival in Warsaw. In 1994 he set up the Jakimowski Film Studio to make commercials as well as documentaries. He then managed an advertising agency for a period. In order to be able to produce his full-length feature debut Zmruż oczy (2002/03) while maintaining artistic independence, Jakimowski and his friends established a limited liability company called Zjednoczenie Artystów Rzemieślników / Union of Artisans, which would also produce his later picture, Sztuczki, in 2007. Both films rank high among Polish-made award-winning features internationally, boasting, among other distinctions, the FIPRESCI mention at the 2002 Mannheim Festival (Zmruż oczy ["Squint Your Eyes"]) and the Special Jury Award at the same Festival in 2007 as well as the Europa Cinema Award at the Venice Festival in 2008 (Sztuczki ["Tricks"]). The latter was also the Polish candidate for the Academy Best Foreign Language Film of the Year Award.
Andrzej Jakimowski also boasts a "Polityka" Passport and Golden Lions, received in 2004 and 2007, respectively.
"I do not accept the flow of time. I have a strong feeling that whatever has happened, goes on", confides Jakimowski in an interview given to "Gazeta Wyborcza" (13-14 October 2007). This attitude - one which by definition should be doomed to failure - seems to be the key to Jakimowski's bright, cheerful and basically optimistic films. His defiance and rebellion work like the spring in the Krasnogorsk camera with which Jakimowski shot his first films, lending a drive and power to the modest, minimalistic plots. Jakimowski's attitude also affects the cinematography, and the Mazurian scenery in Zmruż oczy and the Silesian landscape in Sztuczki are photographed with affection which uncovers the noble beauty and charm of the pot-holed roads and shabby houses. A reason for that might be that we look from a more or less a child's perspective: that of the ten-year-old Mała in Zmruż oczy and of the six-year-old Stefek in Sztuczki. The two films share more such similarities, but Jakimowski finds them "of secondary importance. Each of the two films conveys a different idea: one speaks about the struggle against the flow of time, the other about the risky games with fate" ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 17th October 2007).
The main character of Zmruż oczy is Jaś, a teacher and outsider (Zbigniew Zamachowski), to whom Mała runs away from her wealthy home. They both have their own secrets and both search for answers to their questions in what is to them an unchartered territory. They jibe and banter, and seem to be cut from the same, delicate cloth, a characteristic which is particularly obvious when Mała's parents, out of emotional touch with her, come to collect her, and when Jaś's fun-loving pals from Warsaw come for a visit with a crate of beer. "You, the rebel-artist. You do not write, do not send emails. Are you rebelling in the privy"?, asks one of them after he has found Jaś there. Eugeniusz the local eccentric who gets educated from Jaś's books, tries to teach the hexameter to the cheerful group. This fascination with the antique - present in both of Jakimowski's films - is, incidentally, an echo of his philosophy studies.
Says Jakimowski: "I like the way Greeks perceived the reality and were able to expose both its tragic and comic traits. One of the film's characters is learning Greek and quotes a passage describing the heroic cockfights. It is a good example. Indeed, contrary to the popular opinion, heroism requires no buskins and is not harmed by a modicum of humour. The Greek straightforwardness in matters that call for it and their sophisticated, imaginative and humorous style, suits me very well" (from an interview given to the magazine "Polityka", 20th January 2004).
In the same vein Jaś explains to Mała why she should return home and not worry about not seeing him: "In a week you will squint your eyes and see me still sitting here", he says.
Jakimowski confided: " 'Zmruż oczy' brings the answers to my daughter's questions. Martyna was four at the time. Generally speaking, she was asking about the safety of being. I had no answer to her fears, but I wanted to talk to her about them. Perhaps I needed it myself, for I was writing the screenplay after my mum had died."
The second film, Sztuczki "was made after my father's death, a very traumatic experience for me. I realized that I would not be able to meet him other than in my imagination, at a railway platform or in the cinema. Same as Stefek, the character of my film. In a dream, somewhere on the other side." ("Rzeczpospolita", 27th October 2007)
While Zmruż oczy is dedicated to Jakimowski's daughter, Sztuczki is dedicated to his sister, who, being twelve years Jakimowski's senior, looked after him when their parents were away. In the film the sister is an ambitious eighteen-year-old applying for a job with an Italian company. She is the first person to show to the younger brother how to control reality: she leaves a bag with a hamburger in a park to find out if it will make it to the dustbin, as she wants it to. The stake in her brother's experiments is, however, much bigger. The boy wants a man whom he meets at a railway station and identifies as his father to return to him. Can his childlike tricks work magic on reality? Perhaps they can to the same extent as a film can produce an illusion of meeting another person."According to Greeks, Fate rules the world, and yet heroes can challenge gods", says Jakimowski to "Gazeta Wyborcza", 13-14th October 2007).
With shadows of absent parents looming above them, Jakimowski's films are gauntlets thrown down to Fate and saying: you can overcome the resistance of the matter, play with reality, multiply the characters on the screen so as to see them simultaneously in two places and times, a trick which he has used in one of the scenes of Zmruż oczy. You can make the father miss the train and start talking to his son. There is, however, a fly in the ointment: the fate which helps Stefek trips up his sister - she does not get her dream job.
Tadeusz Sobolewski comments on Sztuczki: "And yet I relax watching Jakimowski's film - a rare thing in the Polish cinema. Just as I did during his debut, 'Zmruż oczy'. You enjoy the fact that big things happen small-scale, between the shack on the outskirts, the vegetable stall, the garage and the glass-paned corporate office building". ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 26th October 2007)
Sobolewski goes on to say:
"The Polish cinema has acquired a director who is free of complexes. Andrzej Jakimowski presents ideas elegantly, without the dazzle of sentimentality or vulgarity. With its cautious optimism, this film captures the moods of the moments. The world is neither finished nor given for ever. It is a living structure. It invites you to play."
To quote Jakimowski,
"Gods like it when mortals can play with them. They can then be gracious for a while. If we do not play their game, they ignore us." ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 13th October 2007).
The way in which Jakimowski starts a game with the audience of Sztuczki will certainly not leave anybody indifferent.
Feature films (writer and director):
- 2002/2003 - Zmruż oczy ["Squint Your Eyes"].Jaś (Zbigniew Zamachowski), the caretaker of a few dilapidated barracks, and Mała (Olga Prószyńska), the ten-year-old runaway from home, are sitting in the middle of a post-state-farm scenery (which has been photographed with affection worthy of Tuscany). No, they are not drinking hock nor cursing their lives. He is fluent in French and until recently was a teacher trying to write. She is the apple of her wealthy parents' eye. They are feeling well where they currently are, staring at the horizon, eating sunflower seeds and squinting their eyes because of the sun. Jaś's 'Choose life' T-shirt blows in the air, bringing to mind a quotation from Danny Boyle's Trainspotting: "Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a family, choose a f…ing big television, choose dishwashers, cars, CD players and electrical tin openers." Is true life lived where your career boils down to the breaking off and renewing the caretaker's job contract and where an old bathtub does for a bathroom, or is it lived in the world from which Mała's parents and Jaś's fun-loving friends come in their fashionable cars? Fortunately Jakimowski does not try to be a spokesman for either side nor does he offer simple answers. The most important thing is what takes place between the teacher and his two local 'pupils' and Mała. He will persuade her to go back home. Does it mean they will never see each other again? Not at all. As Jaś says, "Things do not pass away, they just pass in front of your eyes ... In a week you will squint your eyes and see me still sitting here".
Awards: 2002 - FIPRESCI Mention, Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival.
2003 - Golden Debut Grand Prix, Cierlice Film Summer; Special Jury Award, Directing Debut Award, Cinematography Award (Adam Bajerski, Paweł Śmietanka) and Art Direction Award (Ewa Jakimowska), Gdynia Polish Film Festival; Special Jury Award, Camerimage International Festival of the Art of Cinematography; Jantar Special Jury Award, Koszalin Film Debuts Festival; Srebrne Grono, 33rd Lubuskie Film Summer in Łagów; Jańcio Wodnik Audience Award, Greatest Discovery Best Music Award (Tomasz Gąssowski), Best Photography Award and Journalists' Award at Września Prowincjonalia Film Festival; Best Polish Film Audience Award, 9th Kazimierz Dolny Film Summer; Audience Award, Konin Polish Film Debuts Review; Syrenka Warszawska Polish Journalists' Association Film Critics Club Award; Andrzej Munk PWSFTviT Łódź School Film Photography Award; Tarnów Film Award, Paralaksa Cameramen Association Award.
2004 - Orzeł/Eagle Best Film Award for the best screenplay, directing and leading male role (Zbigniew Zamachowski) and Audience Award; "Złota Kaczka" / Golden Duck Film Magazine Readers' Award; Polityka Magazine's Passport for "an artistically sophisticated portrait of provincial Poland, for remembering values such as sensitivity, goodness, friendship, which Polish cinema has neglected"; Złota Taśma / Golden Reel of the Polish Filmmakers Association Writing Club; SKYY PRIZE San Francisco International Film Festival; White Rose - Grand Prix, Sochi Film Festival; Main Prize, Neiße Film Festival in Zittau.
- 2007 - Sztuczki ["Tricks"].The title refers to the tricks played on reality by two siblings raised by their single mother: the six-year-old Stefek and Elka who is on the threshold of adulthood. Their tricks are not magic or wizardry, they are childish attempts at bribing Fortune which sometimes smiles on them and sometimes raps on their knuckles. Here the Fortune's smile will be earned by Stefek (a superb role of Damian Ul) who dreams about winning back his father (Tomasz Sapryk). The father has left because 'some woman has taken him on a string', says Elka. One day Stefek sees him at a railway station and from then on he will try to bring him closer by all sorts of means, such as dropping coins on the tracks or putting his toy soldiers as guards in the bar where the father is waiting for his train. Not much seems to happen in this story set in the beautifully photographed Silesian scenery, but it is actually the subtle plot and understatements that are the strength of Sztuczki. "Light, wise, seducing and subtle, overcoming the artificial division into artistic and popular cinema", wrote Paweł Felis ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 26th October 2007).
Awards: 2007 - Złote Lwy / Golden Lions, Photography Award (Adam Bajerski), Best Producer Award and the Award of Organizers of Festivals and Polish Film Reviews Abroad, 32nd Polish Film Festival in Gdynia; Golden Prometheus and Parajanov Jury Prize "for high artistic standards and sensitivity", Tbilisi International Film Festival; International Jury Special Award, São Paulo International Film Festival; Special Jury Award and Cinema Owners Mention at 56th Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival; Europa Cinema Best European Film Award and UNICEF mention at Venice Festival; FIPRESCI Award at Bratislava International Film Festival.
2008 - Złota Taśma / Golden Reel Polish Filmmakers Association Writing Club in the Polish Film Category; Złoty Dzik / Golden Boar for "directing mastery and the skill of using poetic language in film" at Świdnica Film Directing Festival; Orzeł / Eagle Polish Film Award for Best Directing; Złoty Anioł / Golden Angel for Best Polish Film at Toruń TofiFest International Film Festival; Złota Rybka / Golden Fish at Ińsko Film Summer; Best Non-English Language Film Award at 25th Miami Film Festival; Krzysztof Kieślowski Ponad Granicami / Beyond Borders Award, Grand Prix, New York Polish Film Festival; Grand Jury Award at Neiße Film Festival in Zittau; Grand Jury Award at Open Ukrainian Film Festival in Kiev-Odessa.
Sztuczki was the Polish candidate for the 2009 Academy Award in the best foreign language film of the year category.
Documentaries based on own screenplays:
- 1994 - Miasto cieni ["The Town of Shadows"] (Fundacja Kultury Award, 1995)
- 1997 - Dzyń, dzyń ["Ding-Dong"]
- 1988 - Wilcza 32 ["32, Wilcza Street"] (GRYF Award, Szczecin Documentary Festival, 1999)
Andrzej Jakimowski has also directed Torba ["Bag"], one of the thirteen parts of the feature series Solidarność, Solidarność which was produced by Polish Television to mark twenty-five years of Solidarity (1995).
Author: Małgorzata Fiejdasz, December 2008.