Polish director, set designer, producer. Born on February 12, 1953 in Chorzów.
Jan Kidawa-Błoński has lived in Warsaw for years, but he often emphasises his connection with Silesia, which is a particular focus in his films. He was born in the same apartment building on ul. Trychana in Chorzów, where three years later Ryszard Riedel was born - the legendary singer of the cult blues band Dżem.
Before Kidawa-Błoński decided to embark on his artistic career, he studied architecture at the Silesian University of Technology (1972-1976). Although there never was a single project of his ever erected, he has retained a special sentiment towards architecture. In 2010, as the winner of the Golden Lions at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia he gave an interview to www.stopklatka.pl, he gave insights into his perspective on his career path:
I wonder what people might have in mind, using the phrase 'classical' while referring to my films? By trade I am an architect. I studied the classics. Greek temples were beautiful, with perfect proportions. Since then, nothing has been invented which is more perfect. The origins of art can be found in the classic. The principle of 'the divine golden section' is a magical, classic formula, expressing the perfection of form and composition in the form of a mathematical equation: the ratio of the whole to the larger pieces must be the same as the ratio to the larger to the smaller parts. This rule is familiar to, and applied, by architects, designers, camera operators and photographers on a daily basis. It looks worst, I must admit, among contemporary filmmakers.
He was accepted into the directing department of the State Film and Theatre School in Łódź in 1976, but never started his course there. He was sent to the All-Union Film Institute in Moscow, where he enrolled in the master class led by Sergei Gerasimov. After he returned to Łódź, he completed his studies under supervision of Henryk Kluba and Andrzej Trzos-Rastawiecki. Under their supervision, he directed the film Pierścień o świńskim ryju" / "Ring of a pig's snout (1980), which was awarded at the International Student Film Festival in Berlin. Jan Kidawa-Błoński completed his directorial studies in 1981 - in spite of the political turmoil at the time.
To make his graduation film, the director had to break the apathy of martial law - which was by then in full swing. Trzy stopy nad ziemią / Three feet off the ground(1984) is the story of an engineering student who goes to work at a mine in order to avoid military service. The spirit of Silesia in the 1970s a key element to this film, its image adulterated by cultivating the propaganda of success - where high production quotas were the norm. The miner's toil, so heroically depicted in the state-controlled media, is nothing more than drudgery. The alleged increased safety in mines is a mere illusion, and the management are in the habit of abusing workers' rights. How is it possible to survive such a situation? Kidawa-Błoński draws the possibility of alternative thinking - believing in the impossible: to achieve a state whose metaphorical dimension is lifted by the title "Three feet off the ground".
We are accustomed to a vision of Silesia, through the films of Kazimierz Kutz. Newcomer Jan Kidawa-Błoński does not follow in the footsteps of his predecessors. His vision of the region differs from the earlier (films), although it is difficult to say that it represents a counter proposal. As Jan F. Lewandowski rightly notes, (Film 49/1985) that these are exterior views of affairs, marked by ironic detachment. The director is familiar with the environment which he is working in (he was born and lived in Silesia), but feels that it is an expression is an 'inside view', which obviously does not apply in this case to the nature of the evaluation.
-Marek Haltof, Kino (No. 5 / 1986)
The distancing by film experts was used to look by the director to objectify Silesia, the propaganda-laden messages of the Gierek regime. The story was dressed in elaborate facades, with elements of Czech cinema in vogue in Poland in late 1960s (an affinity with cinema of Jiři Menzel and Bohumil Hrabal's prose can be drawn from the first frames). Trzy stopy nad ziemią" / "Three feet off the ground is today viewed as a metaphor for martial law suppressed by the "Solidarity" trade union, and the film has gained a cult status. Kidawa-Błoński was awarded the Stanisław Wyspiański Prize awarded to young artists.
The director's next film was Męskie sprawy" / "Men's business (1988) - an ambitious look at the Greater Poland Uprising in Decmber 1918. Ambitious, because up until then Polish cinema had mainly devoted itself to failed Polish uprisings. The film, once again an homage to the style adopted in Czech cinema, was about a successful revolt between Poland and Germany, where the Polish army won back a chunk of land to the West of the country. What was original was not only a historical approach to the topic, but a narrative perspective - from the perspective of a girl over the course of several years. It is a pity that so few would appreciate it. The film was released in mid-March 1989, and on June 4 communism in Poland collapsed.
The transition between the 1980 and 1990s was a very difficult time for Polish cinema. While on the one hand the films by Krzysztof Kieslowski - such as his Dekalog TV series and Three Colours trilogy - garnered huge success abroad, the economic reshuffle of the day saw a huge dent to the cinema budget at the time. This affected not only the ability to produce films, but those which were made, found it hard to distribute them. The influx of foreign films, which were starting to trickle into Polish cinemas uncensored for the first time - made it even harder for the local film industry to get a foothold. The liquidation of the Fund for Cinematography, intended to finance Polish productions, movie theatres and administration, significantly reduced the resources for local filmmakers.
The cinematic associations at the time were also affected as a number of key members loyal to the communist party were replaced. The existing authority of the Polish Filmmakers Association (SPF) seemed to be helpless in the face of the situation. At the Extraordinary Congress of the SFP on October 13, 1990, Jan Kidawa-Błoński was elected president of the Association. His term lasted four years, probably the toughest in the history of the organisation of filmmakers. At that time, SFP searched for a way to unite people involved in film, who had sought support to create professional guilds and small organisations, with the intention of surviving.
When, after 1989, we took over the board, we were unprepared for the capitalist reality. Meanwhile, a grant from the Ministry was cancelled, and we had to support ourselves, and we had no idea how. It was a big challenge.
SFP had a very complex structure: premises, staff, club (in which functioned a catering business) as well as a manor house in Kaleń. However, none of these in fact belonged to the Association - the owner was the Ministry of Culture. We were probably the only institution of this kind, which did not own any property, not even its own offices. The Ministry sent bills and we were penniless. It was an economic drama.
We agreed that the SFP must obtain its own resources to survive. However, attempts to undertake an economic activity failed. We came up with an idea to create an organisation that manages copyright within the Association. Even after my term was over, we were still coming up with an appropriate application, creating a base for these important changes. I fondly remember the moment when we were finalising the documents to the Ministry (working via candlelight, as they had turned off our electricity!), and we could not even afford a lawyer.
-Kidawa-Błoński in the book Polish Filmmakers Association (Warsaw, 2011)
As the president of SFP, Jan Kidawa-Błoński did not interrupt his creative activities. The opposite happened - he moved into producing films. Along with his wife Małgorzata, he founded the production company Gambit Productions, which entered the market with the film Pamiętnik znaleziony w garbie" / "Diary in a Marble (1992), a scathing satire on conformism in the People's Republic of Poland seen from the perspective of Silesia. This film was not as well reviewed as the director's previous works, although it was shown at several major festivals. An equally cool reception was received by another film, Wirus" / "Virus (1996), an attempt at a pastiche based on the structure of Hollywood thriller. At a time when audiences could watch the real thing, the substitute was not keenly received.
As I understand it, cinema is primarily about telling an interesting story. Although this is not all... I like watching people, examining their condition, to provocatively push the boundaries, see how far they can go. Put them in situations where they must face the temptations of all the seven deadly sins. Choose between good and evil... and then bear any consequences. I appreciate the value of the inspiration from events of our history. They are universal and unique at the same time, rich in surprising plot twists, filled with startling figures, which are difficult to come up with.
I learned to work according to certain rules, respecting the film workshop with the knowledge of all these experiences, which entails more than a century of cinema history. (...) However, searching for the most appropriate form to tell a story, I give great attention to the fact that there is a close relationship between form and content.
-Jan Kidawa-Błoński, when asked about his artistic credo (in the aforementioned interview with www.stopklatka.pl)
These words take on special significance when watching two more films by Kidawy-Błoński, especially Skazany na bluesa" / "Destined for Blues (2005) A portrait of the director's cousin, Ryszard Riedel (played by the daring Tomasz Kot), the charismatic singer of Dżem, and also (as evident as the film, which takes on an intriguing dimension) a drug addict. One of the highlights of the film is watching Riedel's rise to fame, in spite of the grey, mundane, everyday life in communist Poland.
"Skazany na bluesa" is a kind of intimate confession, an attempt to find the key to the Riedel phenomenon through his music, but also a common experience. This common experience is indeed the wider perspective. It is not by chance that Upper Silesia is the mecca of Polish blues: a number of respected blues bands come from the region, including 'Dżem'. But the Silesia in Kidawy-Błoński's film is not an organically polluted place of hard work, as we imagine it. This is a gloomy place, full of tenement houses and blocks of flats where one is claustrophobic just by looking at them. It is also a place of conflict, young people seeking a different life, with the old, accustomed to the place and the daily grind, who demands to be respected and obeyed for their toil. This is a dark and hostile world from which there is no escape.
-reviewer of the monthly Kino magazine (No. 7-8/2005)
Similar claustrophobic feelings are raised by the film Różyczka" / "Little Rose (2010), the story of communism in the late 1960s, specifically March 1968 and its political and social consequences. The protagonist is a famous writer, who starts an affair with a young woman, not even suspecting that it she a Security Service spy. The film can be interpreted as a reflection of the fate of several well-known intellectuals of this period, the Polish version of the Oscar-winning Lives of Others (2006) by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Kidawa-Błoński's film is a story of passion and love in the (hard times of the) communist-nationalist state with personal tragedy in the circumstances of not giving up hope to the fullness of life. You have to appreciate that this film shows the complexity of that time, its normalcy and perversion (...).
-Fr. Andrzej Luter notes (Kino, No. 3 / 2010)
Różyczka was awarded the Golden Lions award at the Gdynia festival as best Polish film, and the title character played by Magdalena Boczarska was given the award for Best Actress. A few weeks later at the International Film Festival in Moscow, Jan Kidawa-Błoński won the George award for direction. And these are only a few of the accolades he received with this film - the most significant so far in the career of the filmmaker.
- 1978 - Będzie słonecznie (directing);
- 1978 - **dz:Człowiek z dołu (directing);
- 1979 - **dz:Umowa o pracę (directing);
- 1980 - Pierścień w świńskim ryju" / "Ring in the Pig's Mouth (directing and screenplay).
- 1984 - Trzy stopy nad ziemią" / "Three Feet Above Ground (directing, screenplay, dialogues)
"Golden Grape" for his debut at the Lubuskie Film Summer in Łagów, 1985; Award for best film at the Koszalin Film Meetings "The Young and the film" in 1985; second prize in the feature films category at the festival Young Polish Cinema in Gdańsk, 1986; Stanisław Wyspianski Grade II award in 1986, Head of the Cinematography Award for 1985;
- 1988 - Męskie sprawy" / "Men's business (directing, screenplay, dialogues)
- 1992 - Pamiętnik znaleziony w garbie" / "Diary in a Marble (directing, screenplay, production)
- 1996 - Wirus" / "Virus (directing, production)
- 2003 - Baobab, czyli zielono mi (TV series, directing)
- 2003 - Plebania (TV series, directing)
- 2005 - Skazany na bluesa" / "Destined for Blues (directing, screenplay, production)
"Złoty Klakier" prize for the longest-applauded film, award for costume and a prize for Tomasz Kot's debut at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia in 2005, Eagle Polish Film Award for Costume Design in 2006, "Super Jantar" for best debut actor of the decade for Tomasz Kot at the Koszalin Debut Film Festival "Youth and Film" in 2008;
- 2005 - Wiedźmy" / "Witches (TV series, directing)
- 2006 - Warto kochać (TV series, directing)
- 2009 - Rajskie klimaty (TV series, directing)
- 2010 - Różyczka" / "Little Rose (directing, screenplay)
"Golden Lions" Grand Prix award for Magdalena Boczarska; prize for sound design as well as "Złoty Klakier" for the longest-applauded film at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia, 2010; Main Prize for cinematography in the feature film competition at the Polish Camerimage festival in Bydgoszcz, 2010; "Srebrny Paw" for Magdalena Boczarska at the International Film Festival in Goa in 2010, "Srebrny Jerzy" award for directing at the International Film Festival in Moscow in 2010, Eagle Polish Film Award for Robert Więckiewicz in 2011, the prize for best film, award for best director and the award for Magdalena Boczarska at the Tiburon International Film Festival in San Francisco, 2011.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, May 2011