Wioletta Sowa was born in Gniezno in 1972. She is an animation director and a graphic designer.
She graduated from the Fine Arts Academy in Kraków, where she studied graphic design. She obtained her diploma – for which she received the rector's award – in the atelier of film animation of Professor Jerzy Kucia. Since November 2008 she has been the chair of ASIFA Poland (the Polish group of the Association Internationale du Film d'Animation). She is also a member of Studio A, the Association of Animation, Experimental Film and Video Creators and the Animated Film Section of the Polish Filmmakers Association. She has received many prizes and scholarships, among others the Kraków creative scholarship for filmmakers.
After her warmly-received animations Kropla wody (A Drop of Water, 1997) and Marzenie (Dream, 1998), created during her studies, Wiola Sowa delighted the audience and critics with her diploma Pomiędzy nami (Between Us, 2000). Telling the story of a couple searching for mutual understanding, the director created a film about complicated relationships between men and women, the search for compromise and the need of empathy. The director was able to find artistic means of expression which underlined the atmosphere and the message of the movie. She used the tecnique of a “powdered paper-cut”, where the contours of people and objects are fuzzy, lose their sharpness, like emotions that are hard to define. In one interview, the author revealed that the grainy frames which pull the viewer into a dream-like, impressionistic image were created with a toothbrush. Wiola Sowa was recognized for this film at the 5th National Animated Film Festival, she also received a special award for artistic value at the 9th International Film Festival Etiuda in Kraków. Between Us was also shown at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, during the New Generation of Polish Cinema review in London and at a travelling retrospective 55 years of Polish animation.
A subtle play on the characters’ feelings and gestures, a metaphorical view of existential problems and a careful look at interpersonal relations in Between Us were the director’s manifesto. It was confirmed by her fantastic professional debut Refreny (Refrains, 2007), which received multiple awards at festivals in Poland and abroad. The director told a moving story of three women from three generations: a grandmother, her daughter and her granddaughter, who all have similar experiences. Their lives can be understood as stanzas of a charming song, where emotions and events come back as refrains. Thanks to grainy, illuminated frames, subtle colouring and a disturbing rhythm the author succeeded in creating visual, impressionistic poetry. In this context it can be surprising that the movie was made on a computer: the director painted on a tablet with virtual brushes she designed. Referencing daguerreotypes, she created images from a play of light and shadow, a connection of the colourful stain and the context of watching it. Also the score plays an important part, composed of processed, unrecognizable but intriguing whispers and suggestive music by Leszek Możdżer.
The oneiric, poetic quality of Wiola Sowa’s films is no reason not to call her a documentary filmmaker, one who creates portraits of experiences and feelings, paints credible worlds of the protagonists, concentrates on what is invisible but perceptible. This documentary value finds its confirmation in the respect for the viewers. Sowa seduces them by exposing the protagonists’ emotions and also through a constant dialogue. She engages the spectators as creators of meanings, forces them to create images out of vibrating stains of light and to listen to familiar, but unrecognizable sounds. In the end she breaks the border between the world of the film and the audience, like in a long scene from Refrains, when one of the protagonists looks the viewer directly in the eyes.
The list of prizes for the author’s debut is impressive. Among the awards from Ljubljana, Lisbon and New York, three prizes at the Kraków Film Festival in 2008 are worth mentioning. In an unprecedented hat-trick, the director won the Silver Dragon in the international competition, the Silver Lajkonik in the Polish competition and the FIPRESCI award. Wiola Sowa was also invited to work as a jury member during many international festivals.
Apart from working on films, she is also a graphic designer. She has been recognized for her installation Multiplikacje (Multiplications), presented at the Krzywobłocki i przyjaciele exhibition (Kraków, Katowice, Wrocław). Since 2000, collaborating with publishers such as Nasza Księgarnia and WAM, she has been publishing and illustrating books and short stories for children.
- 1997 - Kropla wody / Drop of Water
- 1998 - Marzenie / Dream
- 2000 - Pomiędzy nami / Between Us (prizes: OFAFA 2000, "Etiuda" 2002)
- 2007 - Refreny / Refrains (prizes: "Etiuda&Anima" 2007, OFAFA 2007, Ljubljana 2007, Banja Luka 2008, Kraków 2008: Srebrny Smok, Srebrny Lajkonik, FIPRESCI award; Miskolc 2008, Wilno 2008, Belgrad 2008, Chieti 2008, Lisbon 2008, Koszalin 2008, Tallin 2008, Nowy Jork 2009).
Author: Mariusz Frukacz, November 2009, translated by N. Mętrak-Ruda, November 2015.