Cinematographer, director, pedagogue, and documentary film screenwriter. Born on 9th March, 1958 in Wrocław.
Cinematographer, director, pedagogue, and documentary film screenwriter.
They say cinema is a male industry. It turns out, however, that the author of some of the most interesting Polish cinematography is a woman. Jolanta Dylewska is an exceptional person – charming, caring and kind, and, moreover, extremely sensitive. She was accepted into the Łódź Film School in 1983, together with such figures as Paweł Edelman and Władysław Pasikowski. She studied at two departments simultaneously: directing and cinematography. She graduated in 1989, and two years later defended her dissertation titled As if in a Looking-Glass, or a Short Essay About Face (Jak w zwierciadle, czyli krótki esej o twarzy), supervised by Prof. Jerzy Wójcik. Soon afterwards, she started working as an assistant at the Cinematography Workshop, run by Profs. Jerzy Wójcik and Witold Sobociński. She teaches at the Leon Schiller National Film, Television and Theatre School in Łódź (in 2006, she received the title of Professor of Film), as well as a visiting professor at universities in Germany. She is a member of the European Film Academy, and a recipient of many prestigious awards in Poland and abroad.
This is how Dylewska spoke about her relationship towards a cinematographer's profession in an interview for the Film & TV Kamera quarterly:
Camera is a kind of a transcendental corridor, which makes the contact between myself and the person I am watching extremely intense, while the camera becomes something more than just a set of lens. Sometimes, I am able to tell what the person in front of me will do in a moment. I am under the impression that with each film, I see differently, and I am very fond of that “differently”. (no 1/2002)
In another interview she said:
To some extent, we are showing another dimension, a different mode of the existence of time. Sight, in my opinion, is a very poor tool. It registers very little of what surrounds us, and what happens with and between us. The glory of film lies, among others, in the fact that it can provide a visual form for whatever surrounds us and what we are unable to see otherwise. Perhaps with time – I still hope – we will manage to grasp the worlds that exist next to us and that we normally fail to see. For a cinematographer, besides the skill set, it is very important to have intuition, since it is a very specific profession, balancing between the visible and the invisible.
Andrzej Bukowiecki – a film critic and an enthusiast of Polish cinematography – defines Jolanta Dylewska's originality:
“Cinematography in film doesn't have to be beautiful, but it has to be wise” - Jolanta Dylewska keeps repeating this art credo like a mantra. More importantly, she manages to this, after all, theoretical idea into practice in her work. It would seem that the point is to avoid making images that are just art for art's sake, but for them to serve the purpose of the script and director's vision. Virtually all cinematographers say that, including Jolanta Dylewska. As a consequence, her photography in Mariusz Grzegorzek's films – Conversations With a Cupboard Man (Rozmowa z człowiekiem z szafy) and The Queen of Angels (Królowa aniołów) is indeed creational, such as are these films by definition. Sophisticated frame composition, well-thought-out game of colours, careful lighting don't take over, but nevertheless make themselves apparent on the screen, which is perfectly welcome in creational cinema. It is a whole different story in the case of Przemysław Wojcieszek social dramas: Louder Than Bombs (Głośniej od bomb), Down the Colourful Hill (W dół kolorowym wzgórzem), and The Perfect Afternoon (Doskonałe popołudnie). Dylewska didn't just shoot grimy pictures for them – her sense of aesthetic wouldn't allow her to do that. Instead, she created, so to say, transparent cinematography, which draws as little attention to itself as possible, aiming to faithfully and often – in line with Wojcieszek's vision – ruthlessly reflect the reality of Polish countryside. The films portray numerous conflicts among their protagonists. Dylewska's camera doesn't act as a distanced observer, but participates in them, and hence also drags the viewer into them. (statement especially for Culture.pl)
Tulpan is a film that deserves special attention. The mutual work by Sergey Dvortsevoy, a documentary filmmaker, who for the first time turned to drama, and the cinematographer Jolanta Dylewska, met with well-deserved interest, validated by numerous distinctions, e.g. for best photography at the Manaki Brothers Festival in Macedonia and the Asian Film Award – regarded almost as the Oscars. The production of the film spread across approximately four years, in extremely difficult conditions, where even breathing was difficult, due to the wind and drifting sand.
The simple plot was not so much inscribed into the steppe scenery, as grew out of it – Andrzej Kołodyński wrote in the Kino magazine (no.5/2009). – It is not without significance that the director of the film, Sergey Dvortsevoy, himself born in Kazakstan, is a documentarian, making his first fiction film. Equally notable is the fact that the photography was created by Jolanta Dylewska, who is not just a cinematographer, but also a producer of several excellent documentaries. Their mutual perception adds an unusual tone to the movie. It is not about creating an exotic image, but about recounting a certain dimension of the everyday life and the magic, yes, true magic, that permeates life in the Hunger Steppe. At one point, its protagonist cries: “It is so beautiful out here!” - while we, the onlookers from Europe, can only see the infinitely far horizon line. But this is not a void. The steppe is alive. This landscape breathes, and one can sense its internal music. The creators of the film have managed to capture that hidden pulse.
Even though the award at the Slamdance Festival, one of the major American independent cinema showcases, could have paved her way to Hollywood film industry, Dylewska prefers to stick to the “manufacture” mode – working with small crews, people she can relate to. This is what was happening on the set of Tulpan, where no one was blamed for the difficult conditions, having to wait for the right weather, or the director's moment of inspiration.
The cinematographer used the passing time to working on her own film – an intriguing documentary about Jewish community in interwar Poland, a story based on amateur photographs and film footage, made by American Jews visiting their families in Poland. The film Po-Lin. Slivers of Memory (Po-Lin. Okruchy pamięci, 2008) unsurprisingly raised a lot of interest:
These films weren't intended as an exhaustive depiction of a shtetl life, but an amateur, tender record; we can only judge what we see – Dylewska talked about the phenomenon of her found footage in an interview for Kino (no. 5/2009). - people in the screen emanate with positive, bright energy, and faith in continuity, in the centuries to come. When conjuring the world destroyed by Shoah, the authors of the Books of Memories want it to be remembered in that way. Having been influenced by Hanna Krall, I decided to change the past tense of the film and of the voice over into historical present. This also concerns the images.
leon schiller film school
Louder Than Bombs
Po-lin. Slivers of Memory
warsaw ghetto uprising
Equally well-received and widely awarded was another documentary film by Dylewska – The Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising According to Marek Edelman (Kronika powstania w Getcie Warszawskim wg Marka Edelmana, 1993). The project was unique thanks to the technical mastery that accompanied the intellectual and artistic construction of the film, all the more interesting due to the fact that no digital technology was used in the making – only the traditional means. Dylewska reinterpreted the archival footage by projecting the film chronicle on the wall and using her camera to trace the faces of people in it and the emotions they were expressing. What the Nazi camera operator intended as a dry record of events, Dylewska turned into a reflection of human fate – individual and national.
Jolanta Dylewska confessed in one of the interviews:
Before coming to the Film School, the division between women and men didn't exist for me – instead, I was thinking about those who carry a meaning, and those who are ambivalent. Once in School, however, I realized that the world is split along the gender divide, and of course it is better to be a man. I still feel uncomfortable, or even strange, in the cinematographers' environment. […] At the Gdynia Festival and Camerimage in Toruń I could sense insinuations from the other cinematographers that I was actually a… freak. (Kino, no. 12/1994)
After fifteen years, however, that has largely changed. Nowadays
it is impossible to speak of Jolanta Dylewska's cinematography without considering her as a human being – Andrzej Bukowiecki claims. - And she is a kind, warm person with strong character, but gentle attitude. When chaos and tension enter a film set, she calmly directs her decisions at her colleagues from the photography department and gives support to the actors, who feel very safe in her lighting arrangements and in her presence.
So, is cinema a male industry?
- 1985 – The Infant Princess / Infantka – director, cinematographer
- 1985 – The Dead Season / Martwy sezon – producer
- 1985 – Snapshot / Migawka – cinematographer
- 1986 – Hair. Post Scriptum to The Infant Princess / Włosy. Post scriptum do 'Infantki' – director, cinematographer
- 1987 – Aleksander – cinematographer
- 1987 – How to Be in Love with Life / Jak kochać życie – cinematographer
- 1987 – Mirage / Miraż – cinematographer
- 1987 – The Bar / Palestra – director, cinematographer
- 1987 – Trains – Farewells / Pociągi - Pożegnania – director, cinematographer
- 1987 – Return from the Torcell Island / Powrót z wyspy Torcello – television producer
- 1987 – Meetings with Memory / Spotkania pamięci – cinematographer
- 1988 – The Alternative / Alternatywa – cinematographer
- 1988 – Matilda / Matylda – director, cinematographer
- 1988 – The Worm / Robak – cinematographer
- 1988 – The Glass Mountain / Szklana góra – director, writer
- 1988 – Today's Topic: How I Spent My Holiday? / Temat: Jak spędziłem wakacje?– director, cinematographer
- 1989 – Two Writers / Dwoje pisarzy – cinematographer
- 1990 – Asrael, the Angel of Death / Azrael, anioł śmierci – director, writer
- 1990 – The Wedding Guests / Hochzeitsgäste – cinematographer
- 1990 – A Story About a Zoo / Opowiadanie o zoo – cinematographer
- 1988 – Barrier / Bariera
- 1990 – I am the Polish Court / Jam dwór polski – cinematographer
- 1991 – Memory / Pamięć – cinematographer
- 1993 – The Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising According to Marek Edelman / Kronika powstania w Getcie Warszawskim wg Marka Edelmana – director, writer, cinematographer. Main Prize in the Documentary category at the 1994 International Mediawave Film Festival in Gyor, Award of the Ecumenical Jury and FICC Award at the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film 1994, Golden Gate Award for Best History Documentary at the 1994 San Francisco International Film Festival, Grand Prix at the 1995 International Documentary Film Festival Munich
- 1993 – Simon Wiesenthal – cinematographer
- 1993 – Ars nova. El libre vermell. Pilgrim Songs from the Monastery of Montserrat. Catalonia, 19th c. / Ars nova. El llibre vermell. Pieśni pielgrzymujących do klasztoru Montserrat. Katalonia, XIX w. – cinematographer
- 1995 – Meredith – cinematographer
- 1995 – Miserabe Maidens / Panny smutne – cinematographer
- 1996 – Five Fairy Tales About Love / Pięć bajek o miłości – cinematographer
- 1999 – Children of the Night – director
- 2001 – The World According to Piotr D. / Świat według Piotra D. – director, writer, cinematographer
- 2002 – Malachei – The Angels / Malachei - Aniołowie – cinematographer
- 2008 – Po-Lin. Slivers of Memory / Po-Lin. Okruchy pamięci– director, writer, cinematographer; Golden Teeth – Audience Award at the 2008 Polish Film Festival in Chicago, Krzysztof Kieślowski Award at the 2008 New York Polish Film Festival, 3rd Prize for Best Feature Film at the 2008 Two Riversides (Dwa Brzegi) Film and Art Festival in Kazimierz Dolny, Gold Tape 2009 – Award from the Film Writing Society of the Polish Filmmakers Association (SFP), Golden Phoenix at the 2009 Jewish Motifs International Film Festival in Warsaw
- 1990 – Goliathus, Goliathus – cinematographer
- 1992 – Remedio – cinematographer
- 1993 – Conversations With a Cupboard Man / Rozmowa z człowiekiem z szafy – cinematographer; 1993 Andrzej Munk Award, Award for Best Photography at the 1993 Gdańsk Film Festival
- 1994 – Marie's Song: I Was, I Do Not Know Where / Maries Lied: Ich war, ich weiss nicht wo – cinematographer; German Film Award for Photography, 1995
- 1999 – The Queen of Angels / Królowa aniołów – cinematographer
- 2000 – Anna Wunder – cinematographer
- 2001 – Louder than Bombs / Głośniej od bomb – cinematographer; Award for Best Photography at the 2002 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City
- 2004 – Edelweiss Pirates / Edelweisspiraten – cinematographer
- 2005 – The Perfect Afternoon / Doskonałe popołudnie – cinematographer
- 2006 – The Boy on the Galloping Horse / Chłopiec na galopującym koniu – cinematographer
- 2008 – Tulpan – cinematographer; Award for Best Photography at the 2008 Manaki Brothers Festival in Bitola, 2009 Asian Film Award for Best Photography
- 2009 – Made in Poland – cinematographer
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, November 2009, transl. AM, March 2015