A visual artist and film director; born in 1954.
Zmarz-Koczanowicz obtained a degree in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw in 1978 and followed this up with a directing degree from the Radio and Television Department of the University of Silesia in Katowice, which she received in 1982. She then spent one year studying scenery design in Warsaw. In 1999 Zmarz-Koczanowicz taught for two semesters at the University of Buffalo (Media Studies). Documentary films are her focus, though her credits also include television theatre productions and one feature film.
Asked, where she finds the ideas for her films, Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz stated:
They come from acquaintances and friends, and sometimes life offers up situations that are so absurd... I then get this feeling, as if there was something wrong with me. And when I feel that way (...) I understand that the situation in question is good material for a film.
This statement is highly revealing. Many of Zmarz-Koczanowicz's films, from her debut Kazdy wie kto za kim stoi / Everyone Knows who's Behind who, through Jestem mezczyzna / I am a Man and Major, albo rewolucja krasnoludkow / The Major, or the Revolt of the Dwarves, to Zycie ci wszystko wybaczy / Life Forgives Everything, resulted precisely from her observation of the absurdities of daily life.
This perspective certainly distinguishes Zmarz-Koczanowicz's documentaries and seems to derive directly from the fact of her living in the country once referred to as "the most jovial barrack in the Socialist camp," i.e. the Polish People's Republic. It seems simultaneously to issue forth from the city of Wroclaw, where the filmmaker lived for many years. Wroclaw is notable, among other things, for being the birthplace of the Pomarańczowa Alternatywa / Orange Alternative, a group whose actions, as Tadeusz Sobolewski once stated, "consisted of provoking reality, putting a 'mug' on it." Her films manifest a similar degree of flippancy, irony, burlesque and absurdity; they are a departure from "martyrological kitsch" and differ in tone from most contemporaneous films.
Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz's documentaries are also singular because of the sociological perspective the filmmaker adopts in examining reality. This has meant that many of her films have lacked individual heroes. Noteworthy examples include Nie wierze politykom / I don't Believe Politicians, focusing on the attitudes of young people, or the now famous Dzieci rewolucji / Children of the Revolution, in which the author went beyond a strictly Polish viewpoint, presenting a number of parallel stories set in Poland, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Her most recent work, Pokolenie 89 / Generation 89, could be thought of as similar, however the list of films with collective heroes does not stop there. Other noteworthy examples include Zamien mnie w dlugiego weza / Turn me into a Long Snake (focusing on the children of Romanian Gypsies), Bara Bara (a film about the Disco-Polo music phenomenon) and a documentary about the Techno music subculture, Milosc do plyty winylowej / A Love for Vinyls.
Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz is not one to avoid political subject matter. In fact, politics are as evident in the previously mentioned "sociological" films as they are in her controversial documentary on General Jaruzelski titled Noc z generalem / A Night with the General. This film also manifests another area of the director's interests, namely, portraits of known figures. Zmarz-Koczanowicz pursued this interest in making films about such notables as Czesław Miłosz, Jerzy Grotowski or Eva Hoffman, but also by creating in-depth examinations of interesting unknowns like the male stripper in Zycie ci wszystko wybaczy / Life Forgives Everything. All of her films are characterized by humor, warmth and fundamental compassion toward her subject (even as repulsive a character as Albin Siwak, the protagonist of Ja, robotnik budowlany / I, the Construction Worker). All of them are also very well edited, something in which the director takes pride and for which credit is indubitably due to herself but also to editor Grażyna Gradoń, who has been a collaborator for years. Zmarz-Koczanowicz's films seem at times to be based on rather modest texts, but her work invariably manifests precise direction and careful staging and composition, which is as true of her documentaries as it is of her television theatre productions and her single feature film.
- 1982 Kazdy wie kto za kim stoi / Everyone Knows Who's Behind Who - storefront queues shown as a dangerous, absorbing ritual - almost a way of life.
- 1983 Dol / The Pit - an attempt at a sociological survey of the male pupils of a coal-mining vocational school.
- 1984 Plakat / The Poster - a film about a poster portraying Poland commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Polish Republic.
- 1985 Slowo - Slowa / Word - Words - reportage on the operations of the editorial office of "Rebus" magazine.
- 1986 Jestem mezczyzna / I am a Man - the portrait of a man who has played many social roles, from 1st secretary of a chapter of the Polish United Workers Party and commander of an ORMO (Volunteer Civil Militia Reserve) unit, through being active in PRON (the Patriotic Movement for National Resurrection) and an anti-alcohol consumption committee, to acting as director of a choir called the "Wesole Anulki" ("Happy Annies") and... chairing a chapter of the Liga Kobiet Polskich (Polish Women's League). Awards: 1986 - Award of the Head of the State Cinema Committee; 2nd Prize in the short film category at the Mlode kino polskie /Young Polish Cinema Festival in Gdansk; Brazowy Lajkonik / Bronze Lajkonik, Krakow; Zlota Tasma / Gold Film Stock (film critics' award)
- 1986 Urzad / The Office - a story about collection agents, merciless officers of the court, and their victims. The film includes actual statements by court collectors, but most did not agree to appear on camera and thus had to be replaced by actors. Awards: 1986 – Award of the Head of the State Cinema Committee; 1987 - Zloty Lajkonik / Golden Lajkonik and Srebrny Smok / Silver Dragon, Krakow; Mlode kino polskie / Young Polish Cinema Festival in Gdansk - award for short film, cinematography award for B. Stachurski, editing award for D. Wardeszkiewicz; 1988 - 1st Prize for Short Film, Cinema du Reel, Paris.
- 1987 Modlitwa / Prayer - an impressionistic documentary about art of the Middle Ages, produced at the Church of the Holiest Virgin Mary in the Piasek district of Wroclaw. Awards: 1987 - S. Wyspianski Award for direction of a documentary film.
- 1988 Co wyszlo z ziemi? / What Came out of the Ground? - reportage on the town of Sroda Slaska, where in May of 1988 archeologists made a startling discovery. The story of a town whose inhabitants dreamed up a treasure.
- 1988 Sprzedawca chleba / The Bread Monger - the story of a journalist who was both a member of the Polish United Workers' Party and the Solidarity Trade Union, and who began selling bread in the street and entirely abandoned his profession when Martial Law was introduced in Poland. Awards: 1989 - screenplay award and editing award for A. Adamczak at the Mlode kino polskie / Young Polish Cinema Festival in Gdansk.
- 1989 Major albo rewolucja krasnoludkow / Major, or the Revolt of the Dwarves (screenplay with W. Fydrych) - the story of Waldemar "Major" Fydrych and the Wroclaw-based artistic and political collective known as the Pomaranczowa Alternatywa / Orange Alternative.
- 1990 Nie wierze politykom / I Don't Believe Politicians (with M. Arabudzki) - a sociological portrait of young people, considered "children of Martial Law" (anarchists, skinheads, young supporters of the Pilsudski myth, yuppies). Awards: 1990 - Award of the Head of the State Cinema Committee for achievements as a director; Distributors' Award, Krakow.
- 1990 Kibice / Fans (with M. Arabudzki) - a rather terrifying look at football fans.
- 1990 Granica / The Border (with D. Wardeszkiewicz) - a film about children living near the Polish border with Czechoslovakia and their perception of what a border is. Awards: honorable mention at the Lodz Media Festival.
- 1991 Kilka uwag o rozkoszy / Some Comments on Pleasure (with P. Morawski) - a film about the early years of the sex business in Poland.
- 1993 Historia pewnej kamery / The Story of a Certain Camera - a film about the camera that was granted to the Solidarity Trade Union by Western trade unions; images of Martial Law in Poland as captured through its lens.
- 1993 Irena Krzywicka - jaka byla i nie byla / Irena Krzywicka - What She Was and Was not Like - a biographical film.
- 1993 Wesele w Iwoniczu / A Wedding in Iwonicz (with T. Rostworowski) - a film produced on the occasion of the marriage of Barbara Zaluska, descendant of the founders of the resort of Iwonicz, about the history of the town and the family responsible for its blooming.
- 1994 Ostatni Cygan w Oswiecimiu / The Last Gypsy in Auschwitz (with Dz. Ankiewicz) - a biographical film about Roman Kwiatkowski, founder of the Association of Roma in Poland.
- 1994 Erna Rosenstein - a biographical film about this painter and poet, the wife of renowned critic and writer Artur Sandauer.
- 1994 Slady / Traces - the activities of the Telewizyjna Agencja Informacyjna (Television Information Agency). Awards: 1994 - honorable mention at the Lodz Media Festival.
- 1994 Teresa Toranska. My-Oni-Ja / Teresa Toranska - We - They - Me - a biographical film.
- 1995 Dziennikarka. Ewa Berberyusz / Journalist - Ewa Berberyusz - a biographical film.
- 1995 Hatif (teleplay by E. Nawoj and J. Strekowski) - a biographical film about Hatif Janabi, an Iraqi poet living in Poland. One of six films in the series Polacy z wyboru / Poles by Choice conceived by J. Strekowski.
- 1995 Jedno zycie - Eva Hoffman / One Life - Eva Hoffman - a biographical film about the Polish-Jewish author of the well-known book Zagubione w przekladzie / Lost in Translation.
- 1995 Prawdziwe zycie / Real Life - a film about perceptions of American television series.
- 1996 Bara Bara (with M. Arabudzki) - a story about the phenomenon of Disco-Polo music and the subculture that developed around it.
- 1997 Zamien mnie w dlugiego weza / Turn me into a Long Snake (with M. Arabudzki) - a story about Romani children who beg in the streets of Warsaw. Awards: 1998 Brazowy Smok / Bronze Dragon, Krakow.
- 1998 Polska ruletka / Polish Roulette (with M. Arabudzki) - a two-part film that offers an ironic look of the Polish political scene during the parliamentary elections of 1997.
- 1998 Zwyczajna dobroc / Plain Goodness (teleplay by A. Franaszek, P. Mucharski, A. Szostkiewicz) - a look at prominent columnist and journalist Jerzy Turowicz.
- 1998 Zycie ci wszystko wybaczy / Life Forgives Everything (with M. Arabudzki, teleplay by P. Strzembosz) - the story of male stripper Janusz Chojnacki.
- 1999 Jerzy Grotowski. Proba portretu / Jerzy Grotowski - An Attempt at a Portrait (teleplay by Zb. Osinski) - a biographical film (more about Grotowski...).
- 2000 Czarodziejska gora. Amerykanski portret Czesława Miłosza / The Magic Mountain - An American Portrait of Czesław Miłosz (teleplay by A. Franaszek, J. Illg) - a biographical film produced in the United States (more about Miłosz...).
- 2000 Jasnowidz / The Clairvoyant (written with M. Marks) - a story about the clairvoyant Krzysztof Jackowski.
- 2001 Ja, robotnik budowlany / I, the Construction Worker (teleplay by Teresa Toranska) - an ironic portrait of Albin Siwak, "famous" construction foreman and former member of the Politburo of the Polish United Workers Party.
- 2001 Milosc bez wizy / Love without a Visa (with R. Kaczynski) - the story of a love affair between a Ukrainian woman and a Pole.
- 2001 Noc z generalem / A Night with the General (written by Teresa Toranska) - a reportage filmed on December 12th (anniversary of the imposition of Martial Law in Poland) at the home of General Wojciech Jaruzelski.
- 2002 Milosc do plyty winylowej / A Love for Vinyls (with M. Arabudzki) - a portrait of the techno subculture.
- 2002 Silaczka / The Strongwoman - the story of a young girl who is a champion weightlifter and was sexually abused by her coach.
- 2002 Dzieci rewolucji / Children of the Revolution - a story about Polish, Czech, Hungarian and German dissidents. Awards: 2002 - Nurt / Current Festival in Kielce, Award of the President of Polish State Television; Polish-German Journalists' Award.
- 2002 Kto, co i w jakim jest zwiazku / Who, what and what is their Relationship (with J. Slawinska) - one of four films in the series Nasz spis powszechny / Our Census conceived by Paweł Łozinski.
- 2002 Pokolenie 89 / Generation 89 (teleplay with A. Franaszek) - a portrait of the generation of NZS (Independent Student Union) members who were opposition activists in Warsaw in the late 1980s. Awards: 2003 - Brazowy Lajkonik / Bronze Lajkonik, Krakow.
- 1993 Kraj swiata / The End of the World - a television feature based on the prose of Janusz Anderman (screenplay with Janusz Anderman) that offers a satirical look at Poland at the moment of socio-economic transformation (set on election day, June 4th, 1989).
Polish Television Theatre Productions:
- 1995 Scena milosna / Love Scene, by Robert Coover
- 1997 Filantrop / The Philanthropist, by Christopher Hampton
- 1997 Nasze miasto / Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
- 1998 E. E., adaptation of a novel by Olga Tokarczuk (teleplay written with Olga Tokarczuk)
- 1998 Jej historia / The Treatment, by Martin Crimp
- 1999 Przeswit / Skylight, by David Hare
- 2000 Sandra K., adaptation of a short story by Manuela Gretkowska. Awards: 2001 - Festiwal Sztuki Rezyserskiej "Interpretacje" / 2001 "Interpretations" Festival of the Art of Directing in Katowice.
- 2002 Po deszczu / After the Rain, by Sergo Belbel. Award: 2003 - Sopot Festival, awards for K. Pakulski for cinematography and G. Gradon for editing.
Author: Jan Strękowski, July 2003