Director and screenwriter. Born on May 5th 1964 in Katowice.
Director and screenwriter. Born on May 5th 1964 in Katowice.
He graduated from the University of Silesia with a degree in journalism in 1989, then he graduated from the Łódź School of Film and Theatre with a degree in screenwriting 1990 and graduated in directing at the Faculty of Radio and Television of the University of Silesia in 1995. Professionally and emotionally has always been connected to Silesia. In an interview for the local supplement to Gazeta Wyborcza, he describes his attitude towards Silesia:
Silesia is the region, in which I was born and raised. A place, where I still live (even though I have been living in Warsaw for the past few years), where my family is, where I have filmed and still plan on filming my movies. I go back to Silesia for energy, to recharge my batteries. I have been working with the Faculty of Radio and Television of the University of Silesia for many years now. I have made my most important film projects here. I believe, I will still film many stories with Silesia in the background. (Gazeta Wyborcza, 26 II 2007)
Pieprzyca’s whole career has been connected to Silesia. He filmed his most important films here – from his etude She Is Different / Inna (1990) awarded at student festivals to his diploma documentary film and TV debut to his feature film debut as well as the TVP Television Theatre. A documentary film that stands out in his career is entitled By Knockout / Przez nokaut (1995) – a work focused on the life of the Polish boxing champion Leszek Błażyński, an Olympic medalist and European champion, who couldn’t deal with his life after his sports career ended, so he committed suicide. The director’s TV debut, the first of the series Pokolenie 2000 (Generation 2000), the film Inferno (2001) – that shows the emotional state of teenagers – high school graduates stepping into adulthood. On the other hand, the film The Feast of St.Barbara / Barbórka (2005) from the TV series Polish Holidays confronts the contemporary portrait of Silesia with the traditional perception of the region that residents of other parts of Poland have about it: the film received the Polish Filmmakers Association Award at the Gdynia Polish Film Festival for a creative portrayal of reality.
Pieprzyca took part in filming the Silesian scenes for the popular series Crime Detectives / Kryminalni (episodes based on the high-profile case from the 70s’ on the so-called Vampire from Sosnowiec), which is yet another proof of his attachment to the region, as is his cinematic debut Splinters / Drzazgi (2008). A film – based on the lives of young people in contemporary Katowice – that creates a new cinematic tradition: searching for the truth about a dynamically changing region, that confronts the traditional perception of Silesia.
Maciej Pieprzyca’s Silesian stories
There is an awful stereotype about this region that has become quite common, that it is a place of poverty, unemployment and lack of prospects – Pieprzyca said in an interview. A place where people cannot achieve anything, they always have to lose. This is what people have begun thinking of Silesia. I realized how strong this stereotype was when I started to show my movies. After one screening in Gdynia, a renowned critic claimed that ‘my’ Silesia wasn’t real. The paradox lies is the fact that what I’m showing on screen, that has to do with this region, in which the story is based is a hundred percent real. Even the fakir and Elvis Presley look-alike. – as he told Artur Cichmiński from Stopklatka in an interview.
The critics received this brighter image of Silesia very well. In the review of Drzazgi Michał Burszta wrote for Filmweb:
Pieprzyca connects silesian magical realism with a story about growing up in the land of Upper Silesia, beloved by Polish filmmakers. (...) Pieprzyca works against stereotypes, without turning neither to triviality, nor cheap journalism.
In his first feature, Drzazgi, the director put his money on promising young actors. The main parts were played by Karolina Piechota and two of the most talented actors of the young generation: Marcin Hycnar and Antoni Pawlicki. Their roles were among the biggest advantages of the film. Drzazgi are based on characters and actors - wrote Michał Burszta - watching their dilemmas is not like witnessing a parade of mannequins, embodying certain ideas and views, but communing with flesh and blood people.
In 2008, during the Gdynia Film Festival, Maciej Pieprzyca received the Złote Lwy prize for bez newcomer. Also Karolina Piechota and the editor Leszek Starzyński were honoured for their effort.
"Life feels good"
In spite of this success, the audience had to wait five years for Pieprzyca's new film. The director spent these years fighting for his unusual, risky project. Chce się żyć / Life feels good is the story of Mateusz, who was born with cerebral palsy. He can neither walk, nor talk, and the doctors suppose that his brain is not developing in the right manner. For many years the boy fights for a way to communicate with the world.
This was a true story, told for the first time by Ewa Pięta in her documentary Jak motyl / Like a butterfly. When the director died of cancer, Maciej Pieprzyca, who was her friend from college, decided to shoot a film as an homage for the artist. That's how the idea for Life feels good was born.
At first nobody wanted this film – said the director in an interview with Orange.pl. - We had no movie in Poland with an invalid as the main character. "Who would want to watch it?" - people asked, but I believed in this project and I infected the producer and the rest of the crew with this faith.
Life feels good turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the last years. During the prestigious Montreal Film Festival the film was awarded three main prizes and at the Gdynia Film Festival it was honoured with Srebrne Lwy and two audience awards. Jiri Menzel, the great Czech director, who was the chair of the Canadian festival jury, admitted that it was one of the most beautiful movies he had ever seen.
In his second feature Pieprzyca displayed artistic maturity and modesty, which was enticing to both critics and the audience. Deciding on a simple form, he hid himself, letting the characters, their truth and ther emotions, take the stage. His film is both extremely moving and funny, escaping from the pitfalls of melodrama.
In 2013 his novel Life feels good, on which the drama was based, was also published.
Pieprzyca's latest film - a psychological thriller inspired by real events from the 1970s - is entitled I am a Murderer and it premiered in the Main Competition at the 41. Polish Film Festival in Gdynia in 2016. The jury appreciated the film, honouring it with the Silver Lion award and the award for best screenplay, written by Pieprzyca himself. The film tells the story of Zdzisław Marchwicki (played by Mirosław Haniszewski), an alleged serial killer who was sentenced to death in 1975. Accused of killing 14 women, he became 'an enemy of the state'. The PRL authorities were not interested in the fact that the investigation seemed incomplete and inaccuarate, and some proofs were fabricated. He became a victim of the system, whose death was supposed to calm the society.
Maciej Pieprzyca made one of the best police dramas in the history of Polish cinema. I am a murderer is a fulfilled promise. Very well written, very well played (Piotr Adamczyk and Magdalena Popławska shine in supporting roles), spiced up by a troubling musical theme. Making a film totally different from the moving Life feels good, Pieprzyca proved he's an extremely versatile director - wrote Łukasz Adamski (wPolityce, 20.09.2016).
It was Pieprzyca's second attempt to tell Marchwicki's story. In 1998 he made a documentary about him, in which he spoke about the man's unjust judgement. Why did he return to the same subject? He wanted to show it from a completely different perspective. The main protagonist of I am a Murderer is a young policeman leading the investigation who is forced to choose btween what is morally right but harmful to his career and injustice that could result in a better life for him and his family. A classic crime story where the stakes are to catch a dangerous killer, turns into a parable about the prize we are able to pay for own fulfillment.
I am a Murderer is a great fusion of a stylish crime story, a psychological thriller and a morality play about being entangled in evil.
- 1990 – She Is Different (short); I Prize at the International Film Festival in Turin 1993, Main Prize at the International Film Festival in Łódź 1994.
- 1995 – By Knockout; Program TVP 1 Award at the IFFK in Kraków 1995, Distinction at the Man in Danger Media Festival in Łódź 1996.
- 1998 – I am a Murderer; Jury Award at the Lubuskie Film Summer in Lagow, 1998.
- 1998 – Zostanie legenda (A Legend will Remain)
- 2001 – Inferno (from the TV series Generation 2000); Golden Debut Award at the Cierlice Film Summer 2002, Award for Monika Kwiatkowska and Honorable Mention for the Director at the Television and Video Films in Avanca 2003, Bronze Award na MFF w Houston 2003.
- 2001-2002 – Marzenia do spełnienia (Dreams to Fulfill) – TV series.
- 2002 – Samo życie (Life Itself) – TV series, director.
- 2002-2005 – Na dobre i na złe (For Good and For Bad) – TV series, director.
- 2004 – Crime Detectives – TV series, director.
- 2005 – The Feast of St.Barbara (from the series Polish Holidays); Polish Filmmakers Association Award at the Gdynia Polish Film Festival
for a creative portrayal of reality, 2005; Golden Award for television film at the IFF in Houston, 2006, Best Actress Award for Iwona Sitkowska at the IFFTV in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 2006; Best Cinematographer Award for Marek Trzaskowski at the IFFTV in Baar
- 2006 – Crime Detectives. Silesian Mission – TV, director.
- 2008 – Splinters; II Award for Screenplay in the Polish Edition of the Hartley-Merrill Contest 2003, Award for Directing Debut, Award for Leszek Starzyński for Editing, Award for Acting Debut for Karolina Piechota (Marta) at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia 2008, Award for Best Actress for Karolina Piechota at the IFF in Cairo 2009.
- 2013 – Life Feels Good; Silver Lions at Gdynia Film Festival, Audience Award at the Gdynia Film Festival, the Grand Prix at the Montreal World Film Festival, FIPRESCI Jury Award and the Audience Award at the Montreal World Film Festival
- 2016 - I am a Murderer; Silver Lions at Gdynia Film Festival, Award for Best Screenplay at the Gdynia Film Festival.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, April 2010; Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska, September 2015; updated by BS, NMR, November 2016.