Immediately after completing his studies in the Directing Department of the Moscow All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography (WGIK), he became an assistant to Krzysztof Zanussi and Krzysztof Kieślowski. He debuted as a documentary director with a piercing morality play, the film Usłyszcie mój krzyk / Hear My Cry, which won many awards at festivals all around the world. His second film Stan nieważkosci / Weightless, which speaks of the 'human' costs of the space conquest was also well received. He continues to make films and is also the director of the radio drama section of the Reportage Laboratory at Warsaw University.
Hear My Cry is the story of Ryszard Siwiec, a clerk from Przemyśl, who commited siucide in September 1968 in protest against Poland's participation in the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia.
On September 8, 1968, during a harvest festival at the Stadion Dziesięciolecia (10th Anniversary Stadium) in Warsaw, in front of thousands of people, Siwiec poured gasoline over himself and lit it in protest against the communist totalitarianism and the entrance of Warsaw Pact forces into Czechoslovakia.
Severely burned, Siwiec was transferred to the hospital where he died. His sacrifice passed unnoticed. His name did not appear on the front pages of neither Polish, nor western papers. After many years, the creator of the film, on the basis of the preserved documents, confessions of relatives and eyewitnesses of the event tries to find out who Ryszard Siwiec was and the cause of his readiness to do such a terrible thing. The film ends in a shocking seven-seconds-long archive fragment that shows the "human torch".
Out of a very scarce material Maciej Drygas made a terrific, shocking film. A film that is not only a tribute to a rebellious man, but also a complement to the meaning of his sacrifice. It is only now that this imploring appeal 'hear my cry' can be answered.
- Paweł Mossakowski in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily
In 1994 Maciej Drygas directed Stan nieważkości / Weightless, a fascinating documentary on the origins of Soviet astronautics. The unique archival material is interspersed with modern recordings. Maciej Drygas managed to invite Soviet cosmonauts six to the film set: Gherman Titov (first stayed in orbit for twenty-four hours and manually controlled the spaceship), Georgi Grechko, Vitaly Zholobov, Vladimir Solovyov, Aleksandr Laveykin, Valeri Polyakov and Vera Patsayeva, widow of the late cosmonaut Viktor Patsayev.
The filmmaker also convinced a well-known space rocket constructor Professor Konstantin Feoktistov, as well as the pioneer of space medicine Professor Oleg Gazenko. He tracked down people who had taken part in dangerous medical experiments and even managed to acquire excerpts from audio communication material between the ground crew and the space station, he was also able to include Valeriy Polyakov’s diaries recorded using a dictaphone. All this was juxtaposed with never before seen footage from energy plants in Kaliningrad, Moscow’s Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, the Russian State Documentary Film & Photo Archive, the Russian Centre for Space Documentation, Moscow's Videokosmos and the Neva Film Studio in St. Petersburg.
He created a poignant portrait of a human struggle against unyielding matter. Despite many sacrifices, inconveniences and at times significant damage to their health, the characters in Drygas’s documentary are mostly proud of their achievements and tearfully reminisce about experiences of an almost metaphysical nature. However, they seem somewhat defeated and the world has forgotten about their efforts, the political and economic reality has changed and the Soviet space programme has been abandoned. Currently, massive constructions are rusting on the Baikonur Cosmodrome and the nearby steppe is littered with the remains of space rockets.
The film won several awards, including a distinction at the Prix Italia; the Grand Prix during the Man in Danger Media Festival in Łódź; the Grand Prix during the Monte Carlo International Television Festival, as well as the Prix Europa.
Maciej Drygas's 2005 documentary “Jeden dzień w PRL” / “One day in People's Poland” is an in-depth view of the reality of the time: a picture of a totalitarian system that is more intriguing than the hundreds of books and films dealing with those issues. It is a film consisting entirely of archival footage at film and television studios, and private collections, is an attempted reconstruction of one day of life in communist Poland. "On this day,” the director said, “nothing special in the People's Republic of Poland. The weather forecast predicted moderate rain. More than 1,600 people came into the world, about 600 died. It was a day like any other.”
The day in question was Thursday, September 27, 1962. The front page of the state-owned Trybuna Ludu daily newspaper posted an interview with the deputy minister of the chemical industry, as well as information about the gala concert of artists from the Soviet Union, which was attended by representatives of the communist party and government. Publisher Iskra released a book on the life of Vladimir Lenin. At noon a routine meeting between party member Zenon Kliszek and Bishop Michał Klepacz was held in the main building of Polish United Workers' Party. It later turned out that Kliszko had a hidden microphone under the table, and the whole conversation was recorded on tape. Therefore this became part of the film.
The film was awarded the Silver Dragon at the Kraków Film Festival, a Special Jury Award for Maciej Drygas at the International Documentary Film Festival of Tai Pei, as well as Platinum Remi Award in the socio-economic issues category for Maciej Drygas at Worldfest Independent Film Festival in Houston.
- 1991 Usłyszcie mój krzyk / Hear My Cry. Awards: Felix - European Film Award - for best documentary, 1991, Silver Dragon at the Cracow Festival of Documentaries and Short Films, 1991, Main Award at the Media Festival "Man under Threat" in Łódź, 1991, Andrzej Munk Award 1991, Silver Sesterce at the International Documentary Film Festival in Nyon, 1991, Grand Prix at the International Documentary Film Festival in Melbourne, 1991, Golden Gate Award at the International Film Festival in San Francisco, 1991.
- 1994 Stan nieważkosci / Weightless. Awards: Prix Italia '94; Grand Prix at the Media Festival in Lódź, 1994; First prize at the Balticum Film and Television Festival in Bornholm, 1995; Grand Prix at the International Monte-Carlo TV Festival, 1995; Prix Europa'95; First Prize at the International Film Festival in Strasbourg, 1995; Grand Prix and Press Award at the Ismailia Festival For Documentary And Short Films, 1995)
- 2002 Głos nadziei / Voice of Hope
- 2005 Jeden dzień w PRL / One Day in People's Poland (Silver Dragon at the national competition of the Krakow Film Festival, 2006)
- 2009 Usłysz nas wszystkich / Hear Us All
Source: "Young Polish Cinema", published by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, June 2007