Despite having made only two feature films, she is one of the most important directors in contemporary Polish cinema. She has received over twenty Polish and international awards for films which she co-directed: “My Nikifor”, “Saviour Square” and “Papusza”.
Scenarist and film director.
She graduated in Polish and Hebrew studies, but even back then she was interested in film. In 1997, she worked as an associate director for Jarosław Żamojda’s “Young Wolves ½” and an assistant on the set of “Farrago,” a TV drama by Lidia Amejko.
Meeting Krzysztof Krauze, currently one of the most important Polish filmmakers, was a groundbreaking moment in her creative biography. In 1996, she collaborated with him on “Street Games”, a thriller dealing with the influence of socialist Poland’s secret service on the 1990s reality. Two years later, they worked together on “The Debt”, one of the most significant Polish films of that decade.
When Krauze directed his „Great Things” trilogy, Joanna Kos was responsible for associate directing and dialogues. These TV films, created in a “small realist” style, told stories of human dramas with three contemporary fetishes at the centre: a television set, a car and a mobile phone. “Great Things” became one of the most important television screenings of the season. In 2004 Joanna Kos married the director, still remaining his closest collaborator.
From biography to socially engaged cinema
She came up with the idea of „My Nikifor”, one of Krauze’s best films. The story of a primitivist painter active in Krynica half a century ago became the biggest Polish festival hit since the early 1990s.
The film received awards in Karlovy Vary – including ones for the best film and best director. Success in Czech Republic was followed by screenings on over 130 film festivals and more awards – from Zimbabwe to the United States. Joanna Kos-Krauze was an associate director and screenwriter, but her husband Krzysztof Krauze, whenever interviewed, always stressed her involvement in the story.
Later, when they began their work on „Saviour Square”, Krzysztof suggested that she should become a co-director. “I said to myself: enough with this slavery, I must have the courage to tell the world that she is my equal partner, a co-author”, he told Stopklatka’s Agata Żbikowska. “I think that her involvement in the film is bigger than mine. There are many women depicted there, and a female type of sensibility was necessary. This film was made as a dialogue between us, between a man and a woman – from the first sentence in the script to the last cut in the editing”.
A story of a young married couple deceived by a property developer was turned by the Krauze team into a social drama about people let down and abandoned by the system. “Saviour Square”, proclaimed as one of the best Polish films of the first decade of the new century, received awards in Gdynia, Trieste, Valladolid and Suzhou in China.
A need for mindfulness
Joanna and Krzysztof Krauze’s projects are always preceded by long preparations. “My Nikifor” began with a high school fascination with the artist, and making “Papusza”, a biography of the famous Romani poet, took five years of collaborative work.
„Choosing a subject takes us a long time, so does preparing for the filming. Before the film about Nikifor we developed an interest in art naïf, in artists from other galleries as well. During the work on the script to our film about Rwanda, ‘The Birds Sing In Kigali’, we traveled, and even got interested in ornithology. Same with “Papusza”. It’s a great subject, a very important one. It tells a story about a difficult, yet very interesting moment in the history of the Roma people. It requires a lot of involvement. This is why we make films so infrequently”, she said in an interview for “Gala”.
Her work is a constant pursuit – for subjects, form, for challenges. “I prefer to make something awkward which will be a result of trying, instead of repeating the same thing to perfection”, she said in a conversation with Culture.pl. After a classic biography (“My Nikifor”) and a social drama (“Saviour Square”), she and her husband decided to make a poetic film, resembling a blank verse in its structure. In “Papusza”, they broke the three-act composition and the classic film rhythm to create a cinematic requiem for a world which doesn’t exist anymore and a story about art which can express freedom and bring pain at the same time.
Papusza. Trailor from Culture.pl on Vimeo.
In March 2014, the Krauze team begins filming their current production. “The Birds Sing In Kigali” tells the story of the Rwandan genocide through the eyes of a visitor from the West. They also want to develop the subject of genocide further in their next film. Joanna Kos-Krauze and her husband have worked for years on a film about Polish crimes in Jedwabne. “I’m telling Krzysztof: let’s give ourselves a chance. Poles haven’t dealt with it for 70 years, so we will need another 50 to talk about it aloud”, she admitted in the quoted interview. The film is intended to present history from the perspective of the mothers and wives of those who murdered Jews in the past; a story about denying guilt, self-absolution and lies which make living possible.
2017 - Ptaki śpiewają w Kigali (Birds Are Singing in Kigali) - direction, script
2013 – Papusza – direction, script
2006 – Plac Zbawiciela (Saviour Square) - direction, script, casting actors
2004 – Mój Nikifor (My Nikifor) – associate director, script, casting
2000 – Sieć w Wielkie rzeczy ("The Web" in "Great Things") – associate director, dialogues
2000 – System w Wielkie rzeczy ("The System" in "Great Things") - associate director
2000 – Gra w Wielkie rzeczy ("The Game" in "Great Things") - associate director
1997 – Młode wilki ½ ("Young Wolves ½") - associate director, casting
Bartosz Staszczyszyn, November 2013