Actor, director, screenwriter and musician. Born on April 17, 1970 in Kwidzyn.
Borcuch is an artist who has always had a broad field of interest, extending his activities across genres and disciplines. He studied philosophy at the University of Warsaw, later moving on to acting at Warsaw's Theatre Academy (1992-93) and ended up at the Danuta Baduszkowa Vocal and Acting School of the Musical Theatre in Gdynia. There, he appeared in performances of Ja kocham Rózię [a musical based on Thackeray's The Rose and the Ring] and West Side Story. He later joined the Teatr Rampa under Andrzej Strzelecki's management, and also appeared at the Szczecin Opera and Operetta, and played bit parts in films.
A major breakthrough in his acting career came with his role in Krzysztof Krauze's film Dług / The Debt (1999), one of the most notable Polish films made after 1989. The Debt is a fictionalised sequence of events which led to the conviction of two Warsaw businessmen, Artur Bryliński and Sławomir Sikora, who received 25-year sentences after they were convicted of the double murder of a gangster who tried to extort money from them and his bodyguard. Borcuch's character Stefan Kowalczyk was based on Sikora, who was pardoned by the Polish president thanks to the publicity the film received.
The film's success opened up the way to a career on the screen, but by then Jacek Borcuch knew that acting was not his goal. Years later, in an interview with Anna Serdiukow for the web portal www.onet.pl, he described his casual attitude towards acting:
"I still sometimes make an appearance in someone's project as a friendly favour, but less and less often. I thought at one point that you could do both things at once, direct and act. Now I know you can't. I don't think I'll play any more parts. I'm going to focus on writing and directing. I'm not interested at all in acting, I don't feel I am a talented actor, I haven't done much, it doesn't get me excited."
The success of Dług / The Debt wasn't followed by proposals that could have consolidated Borcuch's position as an actor - unless you count appearing in the soap opera Na dobre i na złe / For Better and for Worse, in which he played the partner of the fiancé of one of the show's female leads. The character was also gay man, making this among the first depictions of homosexuality in popular Polish soaps. On the other hand, the publicity surrounding Krzysztof Krauze's film did help promote Jacek Borcuch's own original project - the film Kallafiorr. As he averred in an interview for the monthly "Kino" (No. 3/2000):
"It was a film "about nothing. When people see one another every day, what are they supposed to talk about? Life. I think people spend 90 per cent of their time talking about nothing, throwing words to the wind. That's what 'Kallafiorr' is about."
The film, shot over a three-month period by an informal group of friends, is a long way from professional cinema (although there were a few professionals involved int he production), attracted the attention of major official distributors. In the end, it was released by Gutek Film, a company well known for promoting ambitious projects. Kallafiorr was Polish cinema's first truly independent picture. Critics - such as Łukasz Wojdan in "Kino" (No. 3/2000) - gave it a warm, though slightly reserved reception:
"Borcuch's film is a new and interesting project. The Freshness and 'joy of creating' dominate over any attachment to a specific reality with its traditional patterns. The director of 'Kallafiorr' abandons an insightful portrayal of the real world in favour of a subjective, independent image of reality. ... 'Kallafiorr' seems to be a one-off idea, a cleverly-built game; it would be hard to call it the beginnings of a new style. However, the genuine love of fun radiating from the screen, which seeks contact with the audience beyond simple references to reality and newspaper headlines, allows this film to be viewed as a breath of fresh air from the cauliflower field - if we choose to stick to the rules of the style it offers."
The film's relatively warm reception encouraged bolder plans for the future. Borcuch and his friends saw their producer company Two Minutes Elsie Studio as a place from which - like the Weinstein brothers' Miramax - Polish independent cinema would set off to conquer the screens on an equal footing with mainstream hits. These grand plans amounted to nothing - apart from the fact that Jacek Borcuch has stuck to directing ever since. In the aforementioned interview for www.onet.pl, He describes his artistic creed:
"I make sincere cinema - that's how I'd like people to see it. I tell the kind of stories I want to watch myself. Maybe I'm going a little against reality. But there is no consistency in this. My films say more about me than dozens of interviews. And the line keeps shifting - how much you can say about yourself... Even more? - I think after each film. I share my thoughts, my yearnings, everything going through my head. I carry melancholy inside me, an awareness of death. But I also do my best to enjoy life."
He had to wait a whole five years for his second film premiere, steadily gathering funding throughout that period. Tulipany / Tulips (2005) promised to figure as a social event at the very least. The director-cum-screenwriter managed to bring in a group of well-known and liked actors in front of the camera - stars of 1970s Polish cinema, including Małgorzata Braunek, who returned to the screen after a hiatus of 25 years. The choice of actors was not random and the entire film was kept in the spirit of those times. This was because, first of all, Borcuch openly admits to a fascination with that period in cinema, listing among his favourite titles films such as Żywot Mateusza / Matthew's Days, Blowup, and Cria cuervos / Raise Ravens, and secondly, because the film was about relations between the generation of parents who nostalgically invoked memories of the "Polish decade of success" and the generation of grown children seeking their place in a reality changed by the political transformation.
In the spring of 2004, Jacek Borcuch explained the film's origins on the web portal www.efilm.pl:
I felt a very strong yearning for the world of dusty values no longer popular in today's world, like friendship, love, respect, loyalty, remembering our near and dear, a sense of beauty. But a world built of pure, ideal values doesn't exist. Recent years have brought a chain of global conflicts and crises. Positive information is not a commercial commodity, so it disappears in a mass of bad and stupid news. 'Tulips' is my response to what is happening around us. It's a journey to a world that is very close by. I'm not sure if it isn't closer than we think.
Shot by a director with no formal qualifications, described as "semi-amateur", the film divided critics. In Kino magazine ( No. 3/2005), Maciej Maniewski wrote
It is about how a 30-year-old sees himself in another thirty years. And he sees himself very optimistically - dignified, joyful, colourful. It's not until old age that the time comes - Borcuch suggests - when people can fully understand themselves and others, notice the world's beauty, and taste the true flavour of life. Or, life starts after sixty. Great! All the more since old age in 'Tulips' is in no way reminiscent of a dingy waiting room in the intensive care unit. It doesn't have to be, after all.
On the other hand, it left good memories behind - in the end, Borcuch's film not only brought Małgorzata Braunek back to the screen (and stage) and awakened a new wave of nostalgia, but - first and foremost - it gave young actors (Andrzej Chyra, Ilona Ostrowska) the opportunity to face up with some of the biggest names in Polish cinema. It also introduced a wider audience to the talent of composer Daniel Bloom, Jacek Borcuch's brother.
The musical passions of the brothers, members of the band Physical Love, served as the foundation for Jacek Borcuch's third cinematic project, Wszystko co kocham / All That I Love. This is a story about teenagers growing up at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s, during the first Solidarity, facing their first grown-up choices not only as regards their feelings but also great politics. The main character is the son of an officer, not a particularly honourable profession during martial law, while his sweetheart is the daughter of a Solidarity activist who is forced to emigrate by the authorities. The youngsters' field of communication is music - fierce punk rock, a benchmark for Poland's emerging rock music scene. Krzysztof Kwiatkowski write in Kino (No. 1/2010).
I'm not surprised that audiences at the Gdynia festival fell in love with 'All That I Love' and gave Borcuch's film their award. The cast includes some excellent young artists. ... They have produced one of those pictures during which you sigh, 'I used to be like that, too - just 10/20/40 years ago'. At times, 'All That I Love' is offensively naïve, but at the same time there is something bewitching about this film - a purity people quickly grow out of, a passion for learning about the world, and youthful idealism. All that we once loved and all that we miss so much - roughly ever since we turned eighteen.
This element of nostalgia is probably the best explanation for the film's success among audiences, at major festivals and minor events both at home and abroad. It's considered a generation film even though its makers weren't even ten years old in the period it portrays.
Wszystko co kocham / All That I Love represented Poland at two leading festivals in 2010, in Rotterdam and at Sundance. It was the first Polish film to be featured in the competition at the prestigious American festival. It was chosen as Poland's candidate for the 2011 Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category.
Jacek Borcuch began shooting his newest film Lasting on the 8th of September, 2010. The Spanish coproduction tells a story about a couple of Polish students who meet during a vacation in Spain. Their carefree paradise vacation turns into a horror straight from the their darkest nightmares. An unexpected turn of events tests their will to survive. The film was Borcuch's second feature to be chosen for the Sundance Festival (Sundance 2013), where Michał Englert received the award for Best Cinematography.
The film got mixed reviews: while Jacek Szczerba entitled his review in "Gazeta Wyborcza" - "All that I can't stand", Janusz Wróblewski wrote in "Polityka" weekly:
Incredible sensitivity and directorial skill are needed, to create a full-blown, enticing drama out of a few simple scenes made out of a vacation in Spain and the way back home. ("Polityka", 5.02.2013).
- 1995 - Gracze / Players;
- 1995 - Nic śmiesznego / Nothing Funny;
- 1996 - Ekstradycja 2 / Extradition 2 (TV series);
- 1996 - Tajemnica Sagali / The Secret of Sagala (TV series);
- 1997 - Dom / The House (TV series);
- 1997 - Sposób na Alcybiadesa / An Angle on Alcibiades (TV series);
- 1997 - Złotopolscy / The Złotopolskis (TV series);
- 1998 - Ekstradycja 3 / Extradition 3 (TV series);
- 1998 - Gosia i Małgosia / Gosia and Małgosia (TV series);
- 1998 - The White Raven;
- 1999 - Dług / The Debt;
- 1999-2000 - Na dobre i na złe / For Better and for Worse (TV series);
- 2000 - Gunblast Vodka;
- 2002 - Suplement / The Supplement;
- 2004 - Czwarta władza / The Fourth Estate (TV series);
- 2004 - W dół kolorowym wzgórzem / Down the Colourful Hill;
- 2005 - Kryminalni / Detectives (TV series);
- 2005 - Persona non grata;
- 2006 - S@motność w sieci / Loneliness on the Net;
- 2009 - Ile waży koń trojański? / How Much Does the Trojan Horse Weigh?
- 2012 - Lasting
Director and screenwriter
- 1999 - Kallafiorr (also actor);
- 2004 - Tulipany; best supporting actress award for Małgorzata Braunek at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia 2004, Eagle - Polish Film Award for Małgorzata Braunek 2006;
- 2005 - Samo życie / That's Life (TV series, director);
- 2005 - Mrok / The Dark (TV series, director);
- 2005 - Magda M. (TV series, director);
- 2009 - Wszystko co kocham / All That I Love; Golden Clapper and Golden Kangaroo awards for the film, and best art direction award for Elwira Pluta at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia 2009, Jańcio Wodnik Main Prize, best music award for Daniel Bloom, and Discovery of the Festival award for Mateusz Kościukiewicz at the "Prowincjonalia" National Festival of Film Art in Września 2010.
- 2011 - Bez tajemnic (Polish version of the series In Treatment, director)
- 2012 - Prawo Agaty / Agata's Law (TV series, director)
- 2012 - Nieulotne / Lasting
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, March 2010, updated by NMR, June 2016.
Photo credit: Photo: Piotr Bławicki/East News