Jan Jakub Kolski is a film director, cinematographer, and screen- and prose writer. He was born in Wrocław in 1956.
Film director, cinematographer, screenwriter, and prose writer.
As a youth, Jan Jakub Kolski held a menial job at the state film studio in Wrocław. Between 1977 and 1981 he worked as an assistant cameraman at the Wrocław regional branch of Polish State Television. In 1985 he graduated from the cinematography department of the State Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź. Though cinematography was not his first interest, Kolski focused on this art form after failing the entrance exams into the directing programme at the Łódź Film School several times. Obtaining a degree in cinematography, he went on to make numerous short films, documentaries, and art and educational films. He also made a number of nature films, most of them focusing on cave exploration and mountain climbing.
Watch early films by Jan Jakub Kolski and other classics
He debuted as a director of feature films in 1990 with the intriguing Pogrzeb kartofla / The Burial of the Potato.Since then, Kolski has almost exclusively made full-length features and is considered one of Poland's most original filmmakers. His film Jańcio Wodnik / Johnnie Aquarius in 1993 proved a spectacular success. Jan Jakub Kolski occasionally makes documentaries.
He has proven himself an extraordinarily well-rounded artist, composing and writing nearly all of the songs that have been featured in his films and publishing a number of novels and short story collections. The latter have included Jańcio Wodnik i inne opowiadania / Johnnie Aquarius and Other Stories, Kulka z chleba / The Bread Ball, Mikroświaty: opowiadania / Microworlds: Stories and Jadzia i małoludki / Jadzia and the Little Men. Kolski later adapted some of these onto the screen. In 1999 the director moved from Wrocław to Łódź, where he founded the Agencja Reklamy i Filmu Kolski & Partners / Kolski & Partners Film and Advertising Agency, a production company that was spun off of the UNI-FILM publishing and advertising firm.
Since 2000 Jan Jakub Kolski has been a member of the European Film Academy. He received numerous distinctions for his film work, including a Special Jury Prize for his film Johnnie Aquarius at the Festival of Polish Feature Films held in Gdynia in 1993, and a Polityka Passport Award for cinematic originality and for rediscovering the charm of the Polish provinces. Kolski garnered the Golden Lions at the FPFF in Gdynia in 1998 for his film Historia kina w Popielawach / The History of the Cinema in Popielawy. In 1999 he received the Silesian Cultural Award for lifetime achievement and the Wielki FeFe / Great FeFe, a prize bestowed during the FeFe Felliniada Festival upon those who insist on doing their own thing in cinema.
The central character from one of Kolski's most renowned films, the healer Johnnie Aquarius, inspired a statuette of the same name that has for years been a coveted prize among filmmakers participating in the Prowincjonalia / Provincionalia Festivals, organised annually in the towns of Słupca and Września.
Kolski's magical world
As a director of auteur films, Jan Jakub Kolski creates magical, surrealistic worlds that film critics and audiences refer to as Jańcioland / Johnnieland - a name that derives from one of Kolski's film heroes, but one that also clearly references the director's first name. Earlier, the artist had an altogether different moniker: he was called the Polish short film stuntman, a nickname he acquired in making a series of short documentaries and quasi-documentaries that required exceptional physical ability from him and his crew. These films almost invariably focused on mountain climbing and speleology (e.g. Najpiękniejsza jaskinia świata / The Most Beautiful Cave in the World) or survival schools (e.g. Szkoła przetrwania / Survival School, Pałkiewicz ma rację / Pałkiewicz is Right). Kolski himself was an avid mountain climber and cave explorer for twelve years.
The director often emphasizes in interviews that though he always dreamed of making feature films, the experience he gained in making documentaries proved invaluable. While awaiting an opportunity to make his first feature, he acquired many skills and simultaneously spent a significant amount of time thinking about his path in life.
Nothing can be compared to the perfect silence and darkness that reigns in caves, he once said in an interview. The human body begins behaving differently under those conditions. The light that is lacking in the cave begins to burn beneath your ribs. You begin to radiate light from inside; there appears within you a brightness that illuminates your inner space. (...) Given the lack of any external light, in caves you have the chance to see who you really are. While I was a cave explorer I formulated my fundamental question about the meaning of life beyond caves; now, through my creative work, I seek an answer to that question.
Among Jan Jakub Kolski's short films, critics assign special significance to Ładny dzień / A Nice Day, the story of two elderly people who spend their time taking care of their old horse. This film is perceived as a harbinger of the unique sensitivity that would come to characterise the world which the director would create in his full-length features.
Kolski's feature films are considered by some to be part of the 'rural' style in cinema, but limiting their description to this term hardly reflects their most important aspect.
His filmic countryside, wrote Grażyna Stachówna of Kolski's films, combines the authentic landscapes of the Mazovian countryside with the sophisticated beauty of visual creativity, realistic stories with entirely imagined ones, literary and film inspirations with historical facts, miracles and magic with the director's talent and imagination.
This beautifully filmed reality is enriched by a magical world derived in equal amounts from the realms of religion and pagan lore. In this world,
God is a good farmer who rules his little field, the Saints watch over the lives of people, while lamias and dwarves scurry around in the corners.
The protagonists of this world, born from a combination of the director's imagination and his camera skills, are often odd, imperfect people, or individuals who are condemned to being different. This is true of Kuśtyczka (Limpette) of Pograbek, the dwarf Janka and the literally two-faced Morka of Grający z talerza / The Man Who Read Music From Plates. Yet Kolski's characters are also different because they possess unusual talents and skills. The title character of Johnnie Aquarius, for instance, has the power to heal for a time, the main character of Magneto attracts metal objects, while Grażynka, a girl of ill repute in the film Cudowne miejsce / A Miraculous Place, proves a stigmatic. Kolski is often asked why he deems this menagerie necessary and if he needs this collection of odd characters. In response, the director invariably speaks of his protagonists as he did in an interview with Jerzy Wójcik:
I call them Children of God. Why? They are an oversensitive bunch, various 'scarecrows'. Their perception of daily life, life in general, is far more intense, involving every nerve. Their suffering is deeper as well. It is at them that the general aggression present in any environment is directed.
Although the originality of Jan Jakub Kolski's film world is undeniable, his method can be seen as reflecting certain models or containing evidence of his fascinations. Critics agree that Kolski's stylistic inspirations derive from the 'Fantastic Realism' of Iberia and Latin America. As Grażyna Stachówna once noted, this literary style,
allows descriptions of the world to combine harmoniously the real and the true with the fantastic and miraculous.
Kolski, born in the mid 1950s, was from the generation of young Poles who in 1970s became enchanted with Iberian and Latin American literature. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude is the title most frequently cited in connection to Kolski's films, and the director has confirmed his admiration for the Columbian writer in numerous interviews. Of course, the world this Polish director creates is hardly a facsimile of Marquez's 'Macondo'. Kolski has pointed out that the source of his imagined world can be found much closer to home:
I was a city child, he told Jerzy Wójcik, but I wound up in the country. I began living a rural life with my grandfather around the time I was in fourth grade. Everything was new and enchanting to me. My grandfather was a harness maker and all kinds of people would visit him. I listened to their stories. My secrets and my interests, reside in the education I received from them.
Popielawy, the village where Kolski spent those few important years of his childhood between the ages of 11 and 15, appears in each of his films, almost as if it were a trademark. This is even true of Pornografia / Pornography, which is otherwise unrelated to the director's life and biography.
The world that Jan Jakub Kolski has created in such films as Pograbek, Johnnie Aquarius, Cudowne miejsce / A Miraculous Place, Szabla od komendanta / The Sword from the Commander or Grający z talerza / The Man Who Read Music from Plates has its devoted admirers. As Grażyna Stachówna has stated, Johnnieland for them is
a separate and unusual place, one that is somewhat terrifying and mysterious, somewhat humorous and infantile, but one which they always seek out and hold dear.
Viewers and critics praised The Burial of the Potato, they liked Pograbek, and with Johnnie Aquarius, which features an exquisite performance by Franciszek Pieczka, Kolski cast a spell on almost everyone without exception. Humans, however, desire novelty, and Kolski's subsequent films in fact lacked any aura thereof and encountered much criticism. According to Anita Piotrowska, to name but one detractor, The Miraculous Place or The Man Who Read Music from Plates
offered us what was fundamentally the same fare: the immortal menagerie of rural oddballs inhabiting the same 'colorful bazaars' of the strongly mythologised Polish provinces.
Popular opinion has it that my films are similar to each other, the director said in an interview for Rzeczpospolita daily in which he responded to criticism. They seem similar because my handwriting remains the same: I set up similar camera angles, I stage shots so that multiple situations happen in the frame, the same actors reappear in generally rural settings. I write my own screenplays, so the dialogues also probably have the same melody. Could I have dreamed merely five years ago that someone would be able to recognise the film they are watching as one of my own after a few initial sequences?
(J. Wójcik, Rzeczpospolit daily, April 26th, 1996)
Jan Jakub Kolski's films, which are similar to each other in terms of storyline and aesthetic, are exceptional in contemporary Polish cinema. Specifically, they are exceptional examples of works in which there is an evident presence of a real author, a creator of a filmic universe and a distinct style, an artist who incorporates elements of his own biography and family history in his works, which manifest a private topography, an original imagination and autonomous moral judgments, wrote Grażyna Stachówna.
It would be an oversimplification to see Kolski's films solely as featuring an enchanting, poetic style, a gallery of characters that are a mere collection of eccentrics and beautiful photography. It should be underlined that autonomous moral judgments - deriving in the most general terms from the spirit of Manicheanism - are essential to the creative message inscribed in Kolski's films. Incessant analysis of the relationship between good and evil, which Kolski pursues in practically every film, renders each of them a kind of morality tale. Of course, these efforts need not be acceptable to everyone, as they were not to Jan Olszewski, who took an ethical position and published a highly critical review of Kolski's The Miraculous Place. (Film, monthly, no. 2/1995)
With Historia kina w Popielawach / The History of the Cinema in Popielawy, a film that differed somewhat from his previous works, Kolski proved capable once again of gratifying those members of the audience who had become somewhat bored with his consistency.
In speaking about his earlier films, Kolski stated that they grew out of a rural tradition he came to know through members of his mother's family. For The History of the Cinema in Popielawy he drew on his father's side of the family, on a family tradition that was linked to the cinema since the early years of the 20th century. Jan Jakub Kolski's great grandmother opened one of the first movie theatres in the city of Łódź in 1907, while his grandfather was a film producer and distributor for big American studios. Both Kolski's father and older sister are editors. In The History of the Cinema in Popielawy Kolski did not, of course, retell the story of his own family. Rather, the director's aim was to explore tradition in its more symbolic form, to explore the fascination one can have for cinema. He would not be himself if his History of the Cinema... were a realistic film, as a result of which this picture, marked by the fairy-tale style of his previous films, tells the story of the Polish craftsman Andryszek, who half a century before Edison and the Lumiere brothers built a machine for projecting moving pictures. As Grażyna Stachówna wrote about 'The History of the Cinema in Popielawy':
Kolski has proven capable of matching three modes of cinematic visualisation to the three levels of memory delineated in his film. The story of Andryszek Pierwszy (Andryszek the First) has the aura of a nostalgic reminiscence of a time long past. It features sepia images, visual patterns reminiscent of those we see in the paintings of the Impressionists and of Artur Grottger, and a mood typical of old cinema. The story of 'Stas and Szustek' is an impressive exercise in the style of Kolski's earlier films: reality blends with fairy tale, rural landscapes acquire sacral features, human matters vibrate with the passions concealed within them. Kolski achieved cinematic self-awareness, on the other hand, by using a handheld camera. This manner of filming underlines the camera's subjective gaze, the presence of a medium, the technical side of recording images. The film process is unveiled: the picture shakes, rolls, is technically imperfect, actors look straight into the lens and speak directly to the camera, crewmembers appear in certain shots and the director's voice can be heard off camera.
Kolski's film would have been an excellent way of marking the centenary of cinema in 1995, however the director was unable to gather the required production resources in time and made the film two years later. A constant shortage of funds has in recent years plagued not only the career of Jan Jakub Kolski, but the entire Polish film industry. In another interview for Rzeczpospolita daily, Kolski complained:
For three years I made no films. 'There is no money', I was told incessantly. I had to focus my energies on something, I had to do something to prevent myself from going mad, so I directed a handful of television theatre productions and I wrote a novel.
(Rzeczpospolita daily, November 27, 1998)
Kolski's more recent works were adaptations. They include Daleko od okna / Keep Away from the Window, produced using very modest means from a screenplay by Cezary Harasimowicz which in turn was based on a short story by Hanna Krall, and Pornografia / Pornography, based on the novel of the same title by Witold Gombrowicz.
The latter film represented Poland at the Venice Film Festival. During the Festival of Polish Feature Films in Gdynia, Kolski's film had to concede to Dariusz Gajewski's Warszawa / Warsaw in the rivalry for the Grand Prix. Under the circumstances, however, it is hard to determine objectively if the verdict derived from strictly artistic assessment and to what degree the jury may have been decisively influenced by the fact that Kolski's film was produced by Lew Rywin, who was the infamous central figure of an unsavory political and business scandal.
Keep Away from the Window was Kolski's first film from an existing literary work and someone else's screen adaptation, supplementing these to a degree with his own authorship. For Pornography, he also drew on an existing literary work but did not accept the screen adaptations he was offered. Instead, Kolski produced his own adaptation (with contributions from Krzysztof Majchrzak, the actor who portrayed the main character), that seems similar to the original, yet introduces a series of changes that fundamentally affect the meaning of the work. One might even say that Kolski's version offers a view of the world and people that differs from that of Gombrowicz. Kolski also decided not to use the novel's highly singular language.
While working on 'Pornography', I came to understand that one must be audacious in adapting Gombrowicz's works. One must almost be impudent, said the director in an interview with Barbara Hollender.
(Rzeczpospolita daily, October 17th, 2003)
Kolski rejected many sections of the novel that he considered simply too literary.
When I cut out those sections, he said in the same interview, very little was left, as a result of which I 'dressed up' the heroes in new events and above all gave them motivations that Gombrowicz had denied them.
Through Kolski's handiwork, the literary characters acquired biographies, and this is especially true of Fryderyk, who proves to be a tragic figure in the film.
Yes, I gave him a more ruined life than did Gombrowicz, explained Kolski. But I also gave him more opportunities at salvation. I dreamt of viewers leaving the cinema, their hearts broken but filled with hope.
Fryderyk as shaped by Kolski is both interesting and rich, but completely un-Gombrowicz-like. It appears that Gombrowicz saw people as much more cynical than does Kolski. Thus, Gombrowicz required no complicated psychological motivations to show how someone might toy with the lives of other human beings.
Jan Jakub Kolski remains a creator of his own variety of auteur cinema, and we can only assume that he has failed in recent years to fully express his creative independence for non-artistic reasons. Apart from Pornography, his recent directing credits have included a television series and a number of stage plays. He has published a number of new novels in which he describes a world very much akin to the one he created in his most renowned films. Kolski has also made a number of travel documentaries.
Between the dark and the bright side of life
The director's next feature film concepts were very much in the vein of his brand of auteur cinema. In the following years, he created Jasminum (2006) and Afonia i pszczoły (Afonia and the Bees, 2009). At first glance these two films seem to be a return to Kolski’s fairy tale "Johnnieland".
The strength of Kolski’s latest film comes from its lack of philosophical pretence. He tries to turn the limits of his work into a force, without mannerism or repetition. (…) Kolski’s world must be hermetic, so that it can open up and bloom during the screening. Both the triumphs and the failures of the director came from this. His cinema is a finely balanced cinema which can be easily distorted by the artist himself. When obtrusive symbolism and his inclination to multiply marvels triumphed and the lyricism spun out of control, he failed. When these alchemic ingredients reach a balance – he wins. Like he won this time.
– wrote Tomasz Jopkiewicz about Jasminum (Kino, 2008).
It’s easy to notice that Jasminum is different from Jańcio Wodnik or Grający z talerza in its style, its aura, and its humorous distance, which is evident in the fact that the narrator is a little girl, Gienia. A generous dose of warm, delicate humour is what makes this film different from other movies about “Jonnieland”. Paweł T. Felis from Gazeta Wyborcza noticed this shift:
After adaptations of Hanna Krall (Keep Away from the Window) and Witold Gombrowicz (Pornography) in this world, this “Jonnieland”, a change has occurred. There are miracles in Jasminum, but they are put in quotation marks: the whole story, a bit pretentious and naïve, is told by a child. Afonia and the Bees is lacking in miracles. It’s a reverse of Jasminum – hoarse, husky, broken cinema (Paweł T. Felis, Duży Format, 04.06.2009).
This change was noticed by the critics, especially writing about Afonia and the Bees, a parable about dangerous passion, in which they saw a farewell to the idyllic and an unprecedented rapacity. The director agrees:
Once I tried very hard to make the viewer believe in the miracles. Now I don’t anymore. I feel like this “gentle land”, that wants me to make seductive, beautiful cinema is exploited for now. It was replaced by something laced with fear. I’ve grown up. Or maybe I’m getting old? I’m not holding on to the childish notion that you can separate good and evil anymore. I’ve always shown that the sacred and the profane exist at the same time, but in my movies I boasted that I can tell them apart. Now I know it was naïve.
– he admitted in an interview with Paweł T. Felis.
In 2010 he once again spoke about the dark side of a human being. His Wenecja (Venice, 2010), an adaptation of the short story Sezon w Wenecji (A Season in Venice) by Włodzimierz Odojewski, tells a story of an 11-year-old boy, Marek, who dreams about going to Venice. When the outbreak of World War II makes this scenario impossible, he tries to arrange a substitute for the Italian city in an old village mansion.
Kolski’s film was one of the great successes of the year. In his description of the Gdynia festival, Michał Walkiewicz wrote for Filmweb:
Thanks to Włodzimierz Odojewski’s prose, Kolski was able to impose beneficiary restrictions onto his auteur cinema. And thanks to Kolski’s technical abilities, the literary world came to life on the screen in a shape that can’t really be faulted.
Janusz Wróblewski also praised Kolski’s movie in Polityka:
Venice is most of all Artur Reinhart’s tour de force. A coming-of-age tale, based on Włodzimierz Odojewski’s short story, who waits through the nightmare of the occupation in a mansion by the San river, startles with a picturesque, sensual beauty in almost every scene. In his romantic, bitterly lyrical photography, Reinhart found the right tone for a poetic, impressionistic tale about the clash between a child sensitivity and the horrors and disloyalty of the grown-up world.
But Kolski’s next film, Zabić bobra (To Kill a Beaver, 2012), produced over a long time and with scarce funds, met a cold reception. The director told the story of Eryk (Eryk Lubos), a soldier coming back from the war and trying to regain some mental balance. This austere, hoarse story was different from everything Kolski’s audience had gotten used to. Instead of refined, polished stills, he offered dirty, shaky photography and instead of a fairy-tale-like narrative they received a neurotic story about the character's dark side.
Even though Eryk Lubos received an award at the Karlove Vary Film Festival and Michał Pikulski was honoured for cinematography at the Camerimage Film Festival, after the premiere, the director was widely criticised. The film was seen as a continuation of half-personal settlements of the artist, who, in his novel Egzamin z oddychania (Breathing Exam), told the story of a writer struggling with writer’s block, forbidden love and his mother’s death.
After a series of dark, sad stories, in 2014 the director once again returned to the brighter side of life. Serce, Serduszko (The Heart and the Sweetheart, 2014) was a cheerful road movie about a little girl from an orphanage who decides to travel to the seaside to take part in an exam for ballet school. Her only companion is an outsider and social worker (Julia Kijowska), who finds some similarities between herself and this stubborn child.
In this film, as in few others, I went on a journey towards the light and the pleasure of being with people whom I like, in a place where I can breathe – in Bieszczady. For the last time I had felt such happiness when I was shooting Jańcio Wodnik.Then I felt like I was the right man in the right place, doing the right job. And then it somehow got lost.
– said the director to Onet's Paweł Piotrowicz.
Kolski's return to cinema after a personal tragedy, was a personal film, based on his own novel, entitled Las, 4 rano / Forest, 4 in the Morning, which premiered at the Shanghai Film Festival and in Poland at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia in 2016.
- 1990 Pogrzeb kartofla / The Burial of the Potato (screenplay, director). It is 1946 and Mateusz Szewczyk returns to his home village from a concentration camp. His former neighbours, sure that Mateusz has perished, have already made off with his property and now look upon him hostilely as an unwanted competitor who will reduce the share they will receive of a local estate that is to be divided under a national program of agricultural reforms. Mateusz learns that while he was away his neighbours allowed his wounded son to die. Szewczyk forces those who have wronged him to show him his son's place of burial. When he finds himself in the field where his son was interred, he encounters little David, a child survivor of the Holocaust. In surprising fashion, Kolski proved capable of saturating this dark film about hatred with a measure of poetry and beauty.
- 1992 Pograbek (screenplay, director). Pograbek is a man who earns his living by burying dead farm animals. He and his handicapped wife, Kuśtyczka, live a hard life. In spite of this, they would be happy if they could only have a child. They fail in their attempt to adopt the newborn of an unmarried maiden from their village. They decide that the local seducer should father the child that Kuśtyczka will give birth to. This scheme comes to threaten their relationship when Kuśtyczka falls under the playboy's spell, but Pograbek proves capable of fighting for his happiness. In the Leksykon polskich filmów fabularnych / Lexicon of Polish Feature Films, Grzegorz Pieńkowski wrote that the world described in this film surprised all with its poetry, poetry residing where only biology and brutality were previously perceived.
- 1993 Magneto (screenplay, director, author of song lyrics). A Polish-French co-production that was created as part of a never-completed series titled Autrement / Outsider. Kolski's 'installment' waited until 1998 for its premiere and tells the story of Polish émigré who returns to Poland after living in France for many years. She meets people who tell her of her father, a man named Magneto, who was called so because of his singular ability to attract metal objects like a magnet.
- 1993 Jańcio Wodnik / Johnnie Aquarius (screenplay, director, author of song lyrics). An old wanderer casts a spell on a village he passes. Jańcio (Johnnie), one of its inhabitants, suddenly acquires the power to work miracles and to cure people with water. Johnnie does not realise that this is a test of his character. He abandons his pregnant wife Weronika and sets out into the world. He becomes famous and surrenders to the sin of pride. He comes to understand his error when his child is born with a devil's tail and he loses his curing powers.
- 1994 Cudowne miejsce / A Miraculous Place (screenplay and director). In a strange, fantasy village, two forces struggle against each another, their sources remaining unidentifiable at. Miracles occur here, but their Godliness seems suspect at times. Pagan cult practices blend with authentic religiousness. One particularly upsetting fact is that a shameless girl, the waitress at the local inn, possesses marks resembling stigmata on the palms of her hands. There are two priests in the local community. One seems 'overly flexible' in the performance of his functions but ultimately demonstrates himself to be mature. The other is young, recently consecrated and newly appointed to the parish, and he proves excessively trustful of what he sees. Kolski purposely provides an ambiguous judgment of their attitudes on the premise that good and evil co-exist in the world; the director seems to say that these two powers need not always be clearly distinguishable.
- 1995 Grający z talerza / The Man Who Read Music from Plates (screenplay, director). This multi-threaded fairy tale about death and love is set in a picturesque village. Located in a flatland, the hamlet proves to be a world populated by loners seeking friendship and love. The characters include a lonely old farmer, who attempts to bargain with Death when he appears as an angel and the dwarf Janka, who suffers because of her height. Morka, is a man of two faces who hides in a well to escape human curiosity, but to a certain extent acts as a guide through this world. Morka is also a musician who extracts melodies from the rough edges of plate shards as if they were instruments. The main storyline focuses on the love between Morka and Janka. When she comes to know this emotion, the Lilliputian woman begins to grow in size and beauty, but she continues growing beyond all measure.
- 1995 Szabla od komendanta / The Sword from the Commander (screenplay, director). As the director described it himself, this film is a lyrical comedy about veterans of the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1920. Old Jacob dies but he is not let into heaven because of the sword he wears at his side. He must leave it on earth, in the hands of a deserving and trustworthy person. He returns to earth to resolve this matter, and he and his veteran friends embark on a search. Their hope is that they will find a worthy wife for Jacob's son, and that the two will then produce a grandson to whom Jacob could give the sword that he received from his commander, Józef Piłsudski. Jacob's humorous yet light adventures fill out this nostalgic story about the past, a story replete with images from the sphere of fantasy.
- 1998 Historia kina w Popielawach / The History of the Cinema in Popielawy (screenplay, director). Midway through the 19th century, the master blacksmith Andryszek, referred to as Pierwszy (the First), builds a kinomachine (cinemamachine). A historic invention, the device is later bought by the clever Lumiere brothers. Before it is purchased by the French duo, this machine for projecting moving images seems to bring only misfortune upon the Andryszek family. Many years later, the descendent of Andryszek the First in the sixth generation, Józef Andryszek (known as Szustek - i.e. the Sixth), attempts to re-create his ancestor's invention.
- 2000 Daleko od okna / Keep Away from the Window (direction, also camera operation; screenplay by Cezary Harasimowicz based on Hanna Krall's short story Ta z Hamburga / That Girl from Hamburg). A true story from the World War II. Jan and Barbara are a childless couple. Soon after the Germans occupy Poland, they take in and hide a beautiful young Jew girl named Regina. Jan and Regina have an affair and a child is born of their union. Regina survives the war, but must surrender her daughter forever to Barbara and Jan.
- 2001 Małopole czyli świat / Małopole, or the World (director and producer; based on a screenplay by Robert Lewandowski). In this three-part television miniseries, the unjustly condemned Zyga returns to his hometown of Malopole after years in prison. Those guilty of his wrongful conviction fear his revenge. They conspire to make Zyga feel preyed upon and lead to him being accused publicly of another murder. All complications are ultimately resolved. Zyga then wins back his girlfriend and ultimately departs Malopole with her and their son.
- 2003 Pornografia / Pornography (director, writer, co-written with Krzysztof Majchrzak from the screenplay based on the novel of the same title by Witold Gombrowicz; the credits list Gerard Brach and Luc Bondy as co-authors of the screenplay, though in reality the director did not use their version in making the film). In the difficult days of the Germans World War II occupation of Poland, in a picturesque country manor house, two middle-aged men, Witold and Fryderyk, decide to toy with the feelings of two teenagers, Henia and Karol. They want them to fall in love. This seemingly harmless game, designed to do no more than ruin the plans to marry Henia to a highly available bachelor (a local lawyer), spins out of control. The two young people are manipulated into taking part in a political murder (of a man who took part in many heroic guerilla actions but has been condemned to death by the underground resistance because he has suffered a nervous breakdown and is considered potentially dangerous). Henia and Karol successfully assassinate the condemned man together. This excites them and they become attracted to one another. Kolski supplemented this storyline from Gombrowicz's novel with the story of Fryderyk's past, which is revealed gradually and which Kolski himself devised. Fryderyk is persecuted by feelings of guilt for the death of his young daughter, who perished in a concentration camp as the daughter of a Jewish woman. The film brings his moral dilemmas to the forefront and Fryderyk is shown as feeling doubly guilty - for his recklessness and failure to save his daughter, and for his inability to find the courage to die with her. It is the site of Weronica, the young servant girl at the manor, that evokes Fryderyk's memory of his daughter. Differently than in Gombrowicz's novel, his subsequent toying with the feelings of Henia and Karol seems to be a search, a nurturing of the evil within him, a way of preventing himself from forgetting his own guilt.
- 2005 - Wielki wóz / Ursa Major (director and writer). A segment in the film Solidarność, Solidarność. 1980, the Gdańsk Agreement is being signed. Three young Polish speleologists await help in a cave in Italian Alps. Through the radio they learn about what happened in Poland.
- 2006 - Jasminum (writer, director, sound). Natasza, the protagonist of the film, is an art renovator. Together with his small daughter she arrives to a small town monastery, where she's supposed to work on sacral paintings. It's not her only scope: the woman wants to understand why she had been left by the man she loved, who is now a monk in the monastery, one of three whose bodies smell of fruit trees. (Awards: 2006 - Chicago, Polish Film Festival - audience award - Złote Zęby; Cieszyn, "Wakacyjne kadry" Festival in Cieszyn - "Złota Podkowa" for best feature; Gdynia, FPFF - Silver Screen audience award; Rzeszów, "Happy End" Festival - best feature; Toruń, Lato Filmów - audience award)
- 2009 - Afonia i pszczoły / Afonia and the Bees (writer, director, additional photography). The end of Stalinist era in Poland. Afonia is the wife of a paralysed wrestler, Rafał. She takes care of him and of the apiery and has a passion for recording reality with a camera. One day a young, handsome Russian arrives to Afonia and Rafał's house. His beauty impresses Afonia and she surrenders to passion. After some time it becomes clear, that the man, who is a wrestler, came to ask Rafał about the secrets of success.
- 2010 - Wenecja / Venice (writer, director). 10-year-old Marek dreams about a journey to Venice which for him would symbolize growing up. Both the tense situation at home and the outbreak of World War II make the dream impossible. Instead of Lido, with his mother Joanna he goes to a family mansion, administered by his aunt Joanna. Soon they will be joined by other women. (Awards: 2010 - FPFF in Gdynia - Studio Cinemas Prize)
- 2012 - Zabić bobra / To Kill a Beaver (writer, director). The film premiered at the 47. Karlove Vary Film Festival, where Eryk Lubos was named best actor. After his return from the war, Eryk goes to his family house. Waiting for another mission, he recalls the field of battle. The film talks about post-traumatic stress of a special unit soldier, who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- 2014 - Serce, Serduszko / The Heart and the Sweetheart (writer, director). Maszeńka dreams of being a ballerina. One day she escapes from an orphanage, and is followed by Kordula, her eccentric caretaker and tattoo-lover. Together they travel through Poland, from Bieszczady to Gdańsk, to make it to the ballet school exams. Wanted by the police, they meet many weird people, who help the girl follow her dreams. Also Maszeńka's father looks for her, who has to find his way to the girl's heart and change his life. The film won the Critics' Award at the Polish Film Festival in Chicago.
- 2016 - Las, 4 rano / Forest, 4 in the Morning (writer - together with Krzysztof Majchrzak, director). Forst is a rich, well organized man. When we meet him, he seems to be the king of life. One day he leaves the company, he's the president of. Destruction he leaves behind gives no hope of return. Forest, 4 in the morning a few years later. An half-savage forester, dirty and bearded, installs snares in the woods. We recognize him: it's Forst. He lives in the forest, in a hut he built himself. He eats meat of his prey, lives in harmony with nature. One day, a thirtheen-year old girl, Jadzia, appears on his doorstep. Forst has to change his life one more time...
- 1983 Inauguracja 82 / Commencement 82 (director, cinematographer)
- 1984 Umieranko / A Little Dying (director, cinematographer)
Short Films and Documentaries:
- 1982 Najpiękniejsza jaskinia świata / The Most Beautiful Cave in the World (director, screenplay, author of voice-over narration with Jarosław Żamojda)
- 1984 Mały dekalog / A Little Decalogue (director, screenplay, cinematographer)
- 1985 Jak mnie kochasz / If You Love Me (director, screenplay, cinematography with Józef Romasz)
- 1985 Nie zasmucę serca twego / I Shall Not Sadden Your Heart (director, screenplay, cinematographer)
- 1985 Polskie parki i rezerwaty przyrody / 'Polish Parks and Natural Reserves (director, screenplay, cinematography with Jarosław Żamojda)
- 1986 Słowiański Świt. Początki Polski / The Slavic Dawn - the Beginnings of Poland - episode 1 of the series Dzieje Kultury Polskiej / The Annals of Polish Culture (director, screenplay, cinematographer)
- 1988 Ładny dzień / A Nice Day (director, screenplay, cinematographer, production design with Tadeusz Marciniak)
- 1988 Szkoła przetrwania / Survival School (director, screenplay, and cinematography with J. Duszyński and J. Florczak)
- 1988 Pałkiewicz ma racje / Pałkiewicz is Right (director, screenplay, cinematography with J. Duszyński and J. Florczak)
- 2001 Zobaczyć jak najwięcej / To See as Much as Possible - five-part reportage (direction and cinematography with Witold Chomiński)
- 2002 Gdzie jesteś Paititi? / Where Are You, Paititi? (direction and cinematography with Witold Chomiński)
- 2003 Między rajem a ziemią / Between Heaven and Earth - five-part reportage (direction and cinematography with Witold Chomiński, underwater and airborne footage by Cybele Wiśniewski)
- Jan Jakub Kolski served as the cinematographer on Bolesław Pawica's short films Odrobina bólu / A Little Pain (1982), Za górami / Beyond the Hills (1983). He was also co-director of photography on Maciej Łukowski's films Motyle profesora Razowskiego / Professor Razowski's Butterflies (1987) and Rekwizyty Wiesława Garbolińskiego / Wiesław Garboliński's Props, Trzy tematy Leszka Rózgi / Leszek Rózga's Three Topics (1987) as well as on Grzegorz Królikiewicz's film Idz / Go.
- In addition, Jan Jakub Kolski has directed a number of television theatre productions, including Bajki o bardzo lekkim chlebie / Fables of Very Light Bread (1997, writer and director), Wyspa róż / The Island of Roses based on a play by Sławomir Mrożek (1998), Skrzypki / The Violin (1999, writer and director), and Kamera marzeń / Dream Camera (2001, writer and director). He is the author of the play Noga dla Józefa / A Leg for Joseph, produced by Polish Television Theatre in 1997 and directed by Michał Rosa.
Author: Ewa Nawój, April 2004, updated by NMR, October 2016.