×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

European Filmmakers and Producers Protest Sacking of Polish Film Institute Director

Removal of Magdalena Sroka is described as politically motivated

European film producers are voicing outrage over what they allege was the politically motivated sacking of the head of the Polish Film Institute, the nation’s key funding and international networking hub for cinema production.

Magdalena Sroka’s ouster, announced Oct. 9 by Poland’s culture minister, Piotr Glinski, prompted street protests at the Warsaw film festival this week. Filmmaker Wim Wenders, the head of the European Film Academy, said in an open letter that the organization’s members were “deeply disturbed” by the right-wing Polish government’s move to fire Sroka.

“The Polish Film Institute is financed by private sources, and the director can only be dismissed by the government if she has broken the law, which she hasn’t,” Wenders wrote. He described Sroka’s removal as “an expression of disrespect for culture and artistic freedom, and that, indeed, concerns us as a European Academy. It shows how shortsighted governments are when trying to subjugate culture and art to their own political interests.”

Oscar-winning director Agnieszka Holland, one of Poland’s best-known directors at home and abroad, added that ousting Sroka was an attack on the independence of a critical film industry body. “The fear is big, like a tank,” Holland said, “which will totally destroy the grass, which is pretty green.”

Popular on Variety

The Polish Film Institute, created in 2005, is funded with a share of revenue from film exhibitors and TV stations and was set up to be politically independent, with a director serving five-year terms. Sroka was halfway through her first term; Izabela Kiszka-Hoflik, a colleague of Sroka’s, has been named acting director.

The institute has helped scores of films achieve success, Holland noted, including the Oscar-winning “Ida.” It has also helped create domestic demand for less commercial films, with Polish cinema audiences growing from less than a million when it was founded to well over 11 million currently.

Likening Sroka’s removal to the authoritarian policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Holland said: “These are pretty dark times for Poland.”

The European Film Academy, formed around the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1988 to create solidarity among Europe’s filmmakers, has asked Glinski to reconsider his decision. Polish film students protested Monday (pictured) as thousands signed petitions opposing the sacking.

Another open letter, signed by 427 representatives of the Polish film industry, decried Sroka’s dismissal as “unlawful” and unjustified in light of her achievements. Firing her is “incomprehensible in the light of a recent great success of the Polish film festival in Gdynia,” which highlights the best in Polish film each year, a benchmark praised last month by the Polish prime minister.

Sroka did not immediately reply to a request for comment. But she has released a statement to local media indicating she was “not surprised” by the move, noting that the Polish Culture Ministry had been pressuring her to step down “for the last couple of months.”

A ministry statement at the time of her ouster accused her of breaching her professional responsibilities. The ministry cited a letter drafted by a Polish Film Institute staff member, since dismissed, which was sent to  MPAA President Christopher Dodd, describing filmmakers, including Holland, as facing censorship issues in Poland. Sroka has said she did not approve or know about the letter.

Sroka’s expulsion is the latest cause for international concern over Poland following an effort by the government in July to undermine the independence of the judiciary, which sparked protests by 50,000 demonstrators and reprimands by the European Union. A move to limit abortion rights by members of the reigning Law and Justice party, elected in 2015, prompted massive protests last year and was later reversed.

More Film

  • “Facing It,” an eight-minute 30 second

    U.K. Short 'Facing It' Takes Top Prize at 2019 VIEW Awards

    “Facing It,” a claymation/live-action film about how relationships mold people, has won the 2019 VIEW Conference Award for best short film. The film was written and directed by Sam Gainsborough and co-written by Louisa Wood and produced at the National Film and Television School’s Beaconsfield Studio in Beaconsfield, U.K. The VIEW Awards are an offshoot [...]

  • THE CINEMA' 'FRAILTY AT LAEMMLE' FILM

    Laemmle Theatres Arthouse Chain No Longer Seeking Buyer

    Los Angeles-based arthouse chain Laemmle Theatres has stopped seeking a buyer, four months after putting itself on the sales block amid slow sales. Greg Laemmle, president of the 81-year-old exhibitor, announced the development Thursday. He told Variety that discussions with an unidentified buyer had reached an advanced stage but fell apart and that there has [...]

  • Morgan Freeman Lori McCreary Gary Lucchesi

    Film News Roundup: Morgan Freeman's Revelations Teams With Gary Lucchesi for Production Venture

    In today’s film news roundup, Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary and Gary Lucchesi are teaming up; Zolee Griggs, Sara Rue and Ed Quinn are cast; and “Clementine” finds a home. JOINT VENTURE Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary’s Revelations Entertainment is teaming with former Lakeshore Entertainment president Gary Lucchesi for a joint production venture. Lucchesi will develop [...]

  • 'When Lambs Become Lions' Review: A

    Film Review: 'When Lambs Become Lions'

    “For us, ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants,” says Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta in a televised statement, shortly before several vast hauls of severed elephant tusks — ornately piled like sacred shrines — is ceremoniously set ablaze. It’s a confiscated collection that, Kenyatta tells his audience, is worth $150 million, literally going [...]

  • Shannon Hoon

    Live Nation Productions Boards Danny Clinch-Helmed Blind Melon Doc 'All I Can Say'

    Live Nation Productions and Double E Entertainment have signed on as executive producers of “All I Can Say,” the documentary film featuring footage shot entirely by the late Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon. The film’s title is taken from the opening lines of Blind Melon’s instantly recognizable 1993 smash, “No Rain.” Culled from Hoon’s archives, the [...]

  • Tom Hanks stars as Mister Rogers

    How Mr. Rogers Influenced the Pacing of 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood'

    Fred Rogers was an icon to many. Everyone who met him and knew him says, “He really was like that.” He spoke in a soft voice and he was kind. He believed in doing good to others. He spoke to children in “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” in a soft voice, helping them to process complicated emotions [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content