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Gangsters, dark comedy featured in film festival

December 5, 2007 By Gwen Evans

The 17th installment of the Polish Film Festival returns to the Madison campus Friday-Sunday, Dec. 7-9.

The festival will screen four recent feature-length films and a series of documentary shorts. Subjects include human struggle and yearning told in overlapping plotlines, the story of a gangster spilling secrets to the police, visions of fantasy and the occult, and a dark comedy of the sexes.

“Polish cinema was in its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s and was prominent in the international scene. Films were political and reflected the reality of the times,” says Szymon Wozniczka, festival coordinator. “Now there is a renaissance of Polish filmmaking and a new generation of artists are developing their own styles and language instead of imitating Western films. Their films explore the new reality in Poland after communism.”

Wozniczka, who received a degree in physical therapy from UW–Madison in 2005, was active in the Polish Students Association and is still involved in association activities. His passion for film, especially international film, prepared him for coordinating duties. He had a dream list of about 40 films he considered for the festival, testament to the increased vibrancy of the Polish film climate. Availability and ease of getting 35mm prints whittled the list down for more manageable decision-making.

Wozniczka was able to book some of the films because they are also being screened at a Polish film festival in Chicago. Already looking ahead to next year’s festival, he hopes to find new ways to bring more varieties of Polish films to Madison.

“Films are a great way to explore different cultures and learn how other cultures think and perceive the world,” says Wozniczka. “People will see something interesting and new.”

The Polish Film Festival is co-sponsored by Cinematheque, the Polish Students Association, the Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia (CREECA), and the Polish Heritage Club of Madison. All screenings are free and take place in Cinematheque, 4070 Vilas Hall. For more information, visit the festival Web site. All the films in the festival are in Polish with English subtitles.

Screening schedule

Friday, Dec. 7

7:30 p.m.
“What the Sun Has Seen”
Directed by Michal Rosa, 2006

In the scorching July of 2005 in a big city, a trio of people don’t know much about one another. Jozef is 50 and can’t find a job. Teenager Marta dreams of going to Norway. Seba, 13, hungers for the truth about his family. Each must come up with a certain amount of money in a very short time — not a big sum — but out of reach. The film tells a story of everyday struggle with interlacing plots through a script based on newspaper notes, overheard stories and dialogues, and police reports. The film received several major awards at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia.

9:30 p.m.
“The State Witness”
Directed by Jarek Sypniewski and Jacek Filipiak, 2007

This thriller explores the power of emotions in a world of evil. Gangster Jan Blachowski quits his criminal life because of his love for a woman. He declares war on his fellow mobsters and becomes a witness for the state. TV journalist Marcin Kruk is hiding a painful secret and is seeking justice. Their paths cross due to a dramatic interview. The film was inspired by actual events.

Saturday, Dec. 8

7:30 p.m.
Directed by Lech Majewski, 2000

A commune built around the pursuit of spiritual perfection through the occult begins to see its prophecies come true. When the first two — World War II and communism — are realized, the disciples prepare for the third: a death ray from Saturn. To forestall the apocalypse, they need a young male virgin as a sacrifice. This imaginative historical fantasy combines mysticism, bawdy humor and beautiful, illumination-like tableaux.

9:35 p.m.
Directed by Tomasz Konecki and Andrzej Saramonowicz, 2007

This black comedy was a hit in Poland. During a crazy wedding party, the film’s protagonists try to understand the nature of human sexuality and the differences between the sexes. The film examines the complexities of the male psyche through subjects such as relationships with women, modern masculinity and how to be a loving man. The characters discuss the power of biology and culture and what determines our actions and choices: free will or genetics?


Sunday, Dec. 9

4 p.m.
Wajda School Documentary Shorts

This program of 10 documentary shorts features the work of students in Poland’s celebrated Wajda School of filmmaking. The films include a look at a Polish sanatorium, a reflection of the joys of childhood and investigations of the theme of silence.

Tags: events, film, language