Irena Kamieńska was a director and documentary film maker. She was born in 1928 in Łyszkowice and died on 3rd April 2016.
A film director, documentary film maker. She was born in 1928 in Łyszkowice and died on 3rd April 2016.
She graduated from the Medical University of Łódź. Simultaneously, she studied directing at The Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź, where she defended her diploma in 1967 with Dzień Dobry Dzieci (Hello Children), created a year earlier as her graduation film. For many years the director shot documentaries for The Warsaw Documentary Film Studio. In her last few years she mainly collaborated with two film studios: Kronika and Kalejdoskop.
Irena Kamieńska was said to follow Kazimierz Karabasz’s characteristic style of filming documentaries. In the book Chełmska 21 she is quoted as saying:
Why do I shoot documentaries? Seemingly, the answer is simple: I want to speak about the country I live in, about the time when I live; to show people and the contemporary problems I see.
These sentences could be stated by Kazimierz Karabasz as well, as he defined the basic responsibility of any documentarist to deeply register the time one lives in. We can list more correlations. According to Kamieńska:
Documentaries, despite being constituted to seek for the truth, have their well visible restrictions that result from our feelings of responsibility and the inviolable rights of our protagonists who are not always conscious of having them.
Classical methods used by Karabasz’s followers are noticeable in Kamieńska’s Dzień Dobry Dzieci, Wyspa Kobiet (Women’s Isle) and Piękna Mroźna, Polska Zima (The Beautiful, Cold, Polish Winter), a film from the end of the 1970s, when Polish documentarists started to implement elements of creation into their films. Kamieńska was also similar to Karabasz in seeking for themes of the films:
I have usually started with formulating the problem I can focus on and only later looked for places and people who exhibit that problem.
Despite those similarities, Kamieńska always had her own, independent style. The thing that distinguished herself from Karabasz, who usually reached for common and static protagonists, was ‘shooting films about people who do not have easy lives’. Without this assumption, Kamieńska’s greatest films, including Robotnice (Female Workers) and Dzień za Dniem (Day After Day), would not be completed. Although the aforementioned films talk about places from the very bottom of the social ladder, they do not cope with the underclass but with people whose humanity was taken away.
Critics emphasized that Kamieńska’s films talk about women. Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz recognised the features peculiar for women’s cinema, including an eye for detail. An author hiding after the pseudonym Jask, who wrote reviews of three Kamieńska’s films – Dzień dobry dzieci, Pamięć tamtych dni (The Memory of Those Days) and Rzeczna – found the peculiarities in ‘women’s delicacy, subtle idea and lyricism’. It is not surprising that many Kamieńska’s films, like Wyspa Kobiet, contain deep psychological portraits of people.
It is worth mentioning that Kamieńska used her peculiar style even when speaking about typically publicist issues. It is visible in Robotnice, a film that emerged after August 1980. The film distinguished itself among other cinematic protests against the communist authorities by talking about themes of a prosaic nature. Zmarz-Koczanowicz wrote that:
Kamieńska decided for her film to be a complaint about clogs, cold water, heavy aprons, and a lack access to the workplace on free Saturdays.
The film struck viewers. M. Malatyńska wrote at the time of its premiere:
Faces, hands and feet thrown suddenly before the viewers’ eyes say more about treating humans than the greatest address registered at a rally.
- 1966 – Droga do szkoły (Road to School) – a story about rural children going to school.
- 1966 – Kuratorzy (Curators) – work of curators who take care of children.
- 1966 – Dzień dobry dzieci (Hello Kids) – a day of work of a young teacher in the countryside. The graduation film of the director. Prizes: 1967 – Złoty Lajkonik at the Short Film Festival in Kraków.
- 1968 – Pamięć tamtych dni (The Memory of Those Days) – a story about the pacification of Borowo on 2 February 1944
- 1968 – Rzeczna – about a stud farm in Rzeczna.
- 1968 – Wyspa kobiet (Women’s Isle) – a story on rural women working and living in a cotton mill in Zambrów after abandoning their homes in search of work. Kamieńska: it is a ‘film about loneliness, lack of love and temporary contacts in a village’.
- 1969 – O tym jak dziadek od Jasinków skarbów zbójnickich w Tatrach szukał (How a Granddad Searched for Bandits’ Treasures in Tatra Mountains) – a poetic, fabulous story about an aged highlander who had been looking for bandits’ treasures for all his life. Kamieńska: ‘I wanted (…) to give the film a metaphorical sense, to make it a study (…) on persistence, tenacity and hope against all odds’.
- 1970 – Konflikt (Conflict) – a talk between a father and his son turns into a conflict after the son reveals his plans of going to high-school. The father wants his son to learn a trade first.
- 1970 – Powrót mistrza (Master’s Come Back) – a ‘welcome home’ celebration for the weightlifter Zbigniew Kaczmarek coming back with a golden medal from the United States. This story about Silesians welcoming the champion is filled with a good sense of humour.
- 1974 – Polska - człowiek - gospodarka (Poland – Human – Economy) – a film created for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade showing Polish achievements.
- 1974 – Trzy kolekcje (Three Collections) – a close look at Tadeusz Ruta, a Polish inventor.
- 1975 – Motyw (Motive) – paying a visit to a young married couple who left a city in favour of living in the country.
- 1975 – Pierwsza licealna (The First Class of High School) – a story about students from the first year of high school and their parents.
- 1976 – Zapora (Barrier) – a picture of the inhabitants of the small village Maniowy. A story about people who were faced with a huge construction project in their area that is meant to change their lives. Prices: 1977 – Złoty Lajkonik at the Short Film Festival in Kraków.
- 1977 – Tak dużo do zrobienia (So Many Things to Do) – the situation of women connected with the Rural Institute.
- 1978 – Następny punkt programu (The Next Point of the Program) – a portrait of a young social activist from the small rural village Chołowianka. Prices: 1979 – Srebrny Lajkonik at the Short Film Festival in Kraków.
- 1978 – Piękna mroźna, polska zima (The Beautiful, Cold, Polish Winter) – a shocking portrayal of old, infirm people living in a small cottage. Prizes: 1978 – the Fourth Prize at the Polish Review of Educational and Medical Films in Kielce; 1979 – Grand Prix at the Socio-political Film Festival in Łódź.
- 1980 – Robotnice (Female Workers) – a film about women working in a linen manufacture in Krosno. A horrifying portrayal of working conditions reminiscent of the situation in prisons (as noticed by B. Janicka). Prizes:
- 1981 – International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen; International Short Film Festival in Kraków; The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage Prize.
- 1982 – Promieniowanie (Radiation) – the history of the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology in Warsaw.
- 1984 – Notatki z prób (Drafts from Rehearsals) – a record of the theatrical rehearsals Panopticum a la Madame Tussaud i Koniec Europy, realized in Nowy Theatre in Poznań by Janusz Wiśniewski.
- 1985 – Hipotezy i realia (Hypothesis and Reality) – a film about a woman addicted to alcohol, created on commission from the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Warsaw.
- 1986 – Na otwartym sercu (Open Heart) – a portrayal of Zbigniew Religa, the first Polish cardio surgeon to transplant a heart.
- 1988 – Dzień za dniem (Day After Day) – a shocking portrayal of twin sisters working at shipping and discharging bricks at the beginning of the 1950s. In the background – the Stalinist slogans calling for work. K. Serafin wrote: ‘By watching the film one can tell the bleakness of their situation as no way out is possible’. Prices: 1989 – International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen; Srebrny Lajkonik at the Short Film Festival in Kraków; 1990 – Short Film Festival in Clermont-Ferrand; the best film at the Short Film Festival in Tampere; the first prize in the short film category at the Cinema du Reel in Paris.
- 1991 – Misjonarki miłości (Missionaries of Love) – a story about Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity living in Warsaw with a participation of Mother Teresa. Prizes: 1991 – First Prize at the Religious-Moral Festival in Niepokalanów.
- 1992 – Głosy z daleka (Voices From Far Away Places) (with A. Piekutowski) – lives of Poles exiled in 1936 and 1940 to Kazakhstan.
- 1992 – Za horyzontem (Over the Horizon) (with A. Piekutowski) – about a Lithuanian priest exiled to Kazakhstan who built a church gathering all Catholics from the surrounding area – exiles from different nationalities. Prizes: 1992 – the best documentary and the best cinematography at the Religious-Moral Festival in Niepokalanów.
- 1993 – Mgła (Fog) – showing the mentality of Poles formulated by living in Poland before 1989 who were helpless facing the upcoming changes.
- 1994 – Aktor (Actor) – a story told in the pre-war Polish language by the Jewish Theatre’s actor Michał Szwejlich.
- 1995 – Nasze dzieci (Our Children) – a story about the parents fighting for the basic human rights for their handicapped children.
- 1996 – Architekt (Architect) – a story about Zvi Hecker, a famous Jewish architect born in Kraków, exiled to the USSR, currently working in Berlin.
- 1996 – Kościół na górze Syjon (Church on the Zion Mountain) – a shot in Israel film is dedicated to Jews who believe in Jesus Christ.
- 1997 – Ucisk serca (Heart Grip) – a story about the Home Army soldiers arrested shortly after the war by the new authorities and sentenced to death. The soldiers themselves talk about this unknown episode.
- 2001 – Powołanie (Vocation) – a portrayal of Władysław Bukowiński, a Catholic priest, exile and prisoner who persistently brought faith to people of different nationalities in Kazakhstan.
- 1973 – Znak (Sign) – a television short feature film based on K. Orłoś’s ‘Dziecko Ojca i Matki’ (A Children of Father and Mother). It tells a story of a family with handicapped children spending a day on a beach.
- 1976 – Klara i Angelika (Clara and Angelika) – a television film based on Maria Dąbrowska’s novel. A story about a famous dancer who sum up her life. Kamieńska: ‘I was always interested in the sphere which is the hardest to be shown in the documentarist narration – people’s psychology and inner life.
- 1959 – Marsz weselny (Wedding March)
- 1959 – Obiad z kilku dań (Diner Combined of Few Dishes)
- 1960 – Rower (Bike)
- 1961 – Maszt (Mast)
- 1961 – Wyrok (Sentence)
- 1961 – Zatrzymaj się na drodze (Stop on the Road)
- 1962 – Wycinanka z papieru (Paper Cut-out)
- 1963 – Rozprawa (Hearing)
Author: Jan Strękowski, July 2003, translated by Antoni Wiśniewski