You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Polish Filmmakers Debate the Effect of the Country’s Right-Leaning Government

The Polish Film Institute is credited with having spawned a renaissance in local filmmaking over the past decade, but some filmmakers are concerned that its independence could be eroded and creative freedom compromised.

The ruling Law and Justice Party has been trying to extend its influence within cultural and media organizations, such as public broadcaster TVP, in order to promote its conservative and nationalist outlook.

Filmmakers like Agnieszka Holland, whose “Spoor” plays in Berlin’s competition, and Pawel Pawlikowski, who won a foreign-language Oscar with 2013’s “Ida,” fear that if the Polish Film Institute is forced to toe the ideological line as well, the creativity of the sector may not continue to flourish.

“As in all post-communist countries in Europe the private sector is extremely weak and so filmmakers are dependent on the state, so when the state establishes some kind of censorship it is very difficult to find another source of financing,” Holland says. “Filmmakers are quite anxious about the situation, and would love to protect their creative freedom.”

In a statement, the board of the Directors’ Guild of Poland said: “We want to be able to guard the functioning of the Polish Film Institute in its present form. The past 10 years showed that Polish cinema is very dynamic and diverse, and we are concerned that this process could be politicized. We all remember the not-so-distant past when we fought political censorship.”

Jacek Bromski, president of the Polish Filmmakers Assn., says the political climate has not affected the film sector so far, and the government has chiefly focused its attention on increasing financing for the production of films about Polish history.

“Politics is always dancing with culture and media, and tries to influence it, but one thing has to be said loudly: Poland has created a healthy, well-organized, and well-financed system, which should not be dismantled. Continuity is of huge value in every industry,” says Jan Naszewski, CEO of Poland’s New Europe Film Sales.

Michal Oleszczyk, artistic director of the Gdynia Film Festival, remains optimistic. “Some members of the filmmaking community were vocal in their criticism of the current administration, but since there is no state censorship in Poland, and since the Polish Film Institute remains a diverse body that allows for voices from both sides of the political barricade to influence current film production, I expect diverse projects to keep emerging from Poland.”

He credits the government with moving toward implementing the much-needed tax incentives for foreign film producers, which will make Poland a desirable partner and destination for international co-productions. “I would say that despite some tensions that will hopefully be fast overcome, there is potential that the current changes and the discussion they provoke will make the Polish film scene even more dynamic.”

Pawlikowski believes that the febrile atmosphere has helped stimulate the country’s filmmakers. “As for the political situation, I think it has had a galvanizing effect. There is the feeling that we are possibly living on borrowed time, so every film has to mean something and it is focusing people’s minds,” he says.

Movies about life under the authoritarian communist regimes of the post-war era have suddenly become more relevant. “In this ideologically contaminated climate everything rings a bell. Context has returned, so people going to the movies are totally aware of how relevant it is to set something in the past,” he says. “So there is a tension in the air, which is good for cinema, but bad for society.”

He says the PFI has remained free from political interference because the filmmaking community is quite strong and resistant. “There is a certain loyalty and solidarity among filmmakers,” he adds, and credits the Polish Directors’ Guild with having helped facilitate resistance to ideological meddling.

Film critic Malgorzata Sadowska says many younger Polish filmmakers seem to lack any interest in politics, preferring to focus on personal issues and relationships. Jan Komasa’s “Warsaw ’44,” for example, resisted a critical reflection on the uprising of 1944, instead focusing on friendship and emotions.
But she lauds Michal Marczak’s “All Those Sleepless Nights” for turning “indifference into the main subject, and creating an honest portrait of the urban young: drifting, selfish, spoiled, and focused on their inner life.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Robert Pattinson Twilight Was Weird

    Robert Pattinson Finds the Whole ‘Twilight’ Premise 'Weird'

    While speaking with Jennifer Lopez for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Robert Pattinson confessed that the blockbuster “Twilight” series always struck him as a profoundly “weird” saga. “It’s a weird story, ‘Twilight.’ It’s not just like – it’s strange how people responded a lot to it. I guess the books are very romantic, but at [...]

  • Robert Pattinson

    Robert Pattinson Says Actors Only Go Method When They’re Playing A--holes

    Robert Pattinson is no fan of method acting, as he told Jennifer Lopez during an interview for Variety’s Actors on Actors series. Discussing his work in the nightmarish drama “The Lighthouse,” Pattinson revealed the psychological challenges that come with playing a character who slowly descends into madness. “It was a kind of no limit part, [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Batman Actors on Actors

    Robert Pattinson Thinks Jennifer Lopez Would Make an 'Awesome' Batman

    From his iconic portrayal of a lovestruck vampire in the “Twilight” series to his latest role as a disturbed lighthouse keeper in director Robert Eggers’ frightening drama “The Lighthouse,” it’s clear that Robert Pattinson is drawn to playing dark and brooding characters. While that might make his casting as Bruce Wayne in Matt Reeves’ upcoming [...]

  • Always Be My Maybe

    Cinema Inspires Chefs at Variety's Food to Table Event at Napa Valley Film Festival

    The Variety Film to Table event at the Napa Valley Film Festival on Nov. 14 showcases some of the best chefs in the region, and their dishes that have been inspired by films. Mark Caldwell DISH: Tiger prawn noodle salad, pickled carrots, sesame-ginger vinaigrette Executive chef Caldwell creates dishes at David Estates winery, where his [...]

  • Keeley Hawes to Star in Untitled

    Keeley Hawes to Play Patricia Neal in Film About the Star and Roald Dahl (EXCLUSIVE)

    Keeley Hawes will star opposite Hugh Bonneville in a film about the Oscar-winner Patricia Neal and her husband, author Roald Dahl. Formerly known as “An Unquiet Life,” and based on Stephen Michael Shearer’s book of the same name, the family drama starts filming this week in Surrey, southern England. John Hay directs. He co-wrote the [...]

  • Eddie Murphy Antonio Bandares Variety Actors

    Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas Share More in Common Than 'Shrek'

    Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”) and Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name”) sat down for a chat for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” For more, click here.  Antonio Banderas takes on the role of his career as the director who discovered him in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory,” playing a fictionalized take on Almodóvar sorting [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Robert Pattinson Actors on

    Robert Pattinson and Jennifer Lopez on Batman, 'Hustlers' and 'The Lighthouse'

    Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”) and Robert Pattinson (“The Lighthouse”) sat down for a chat for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” For more, click here.  In “Hustlers,” Jennifer Lopez plays Ramona, the ringleader of a gang formed in a New York strip club. She’s equal parts private dancer and hardened criminal, a combination that Oscar voters might [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content