FNE Visegrad 2011 Country Focus : Poland

By Katarzyna Grynienko

    WARSAW: Heading into the last quarter of 2011, Polish cinema is on track to repeat the steady growth that can be observed since 2005. Thanks to the activities of local filmmakers and public funds, the Polish film industry has managed to maintain an average of 40 local titles produced each year, with a chance the number will increase by the end of 2011.

     The last six years of development and the quality in the local film production have been greatly influenced by the establishment of the Polish film Institute (PISF, www.pisf.pl) in 2005. PISF currently remains the main public investor providing financial as well as artistic and promotional support for locally produced Polish films and international co-productions. Another strong branch of public film funding has been the recent emergence of a chain of regional film funds supporting production in areas of Poland looking to promote their regions through film.

    The other public sources of funding for cinema in Poland are the Television Agency of the Polish public broadcaster Telewizja Polska (www.tvp.pl), The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (www.mk.gov.pl), and several other public institutions. The other important part of the Polish film financing are major film studios such as KADR (www.kadr.com.pl), OKO (www.sfoko.com.pl), PERSPEKTYWA (www.studioperspektywa.pl), TOR (www.tor.com.pl), ZEBRA (www.zebrafilm.pl) and the Documentary and Feature Film Production Company (WFDiF, www.wfdif.com.pl).

    Poland has a well developed film industry with several hundred active private production companies. The majority of independent producers make an average of 1-2 films per year, while the leaders in the market such as Opus Film (www.opusfilm.pl), Akson Studio (www.akson-studio.pl) and Apple Film (www.applefilm.pl) produce 4-6 films each year. The development of the market has resulted in a visible diversification and genre specializations, Companies such as Van Worden (www.vanworden.pl) and MTL Max Film (www.mtlmaxfilm.pl) focus on big commercial titles. An increasing number of Polish companies are now open to engaging in coproductions, with Ozumi Films (www.ozumifilms.com), MS Films (www.msfilms.pl), Apple Film (www.applefilm.pl) leading in internationally coproduced projects.

    The current estimate for the number of films made in Poland in 2011 is 35 to 40 titles, 80% of which are co-financed by the Polish Film Institute. This year PISF Director Agnieszka Odorowicz alloted 62 million PLN for full-length feature film production. The co-financed projects include new locally produced titles from Katarzyna Rosłaniec (Baby Blues; produced by Zentropa International Poland, www.zentropa.dk ), Wojciech Smarzowski (Road Crew; Film It, www.filmit.com.pl ), Małgorzata Szumowska (Zabójstwo Księdza Adama; Zentropa International Poland), Piotr Trzaskalski, (My Bike; Federico Film, www.federicofilm.com), Władysław Pasikowski (Pokłosie, Apple Film, www.applefilm.pl), Sławomir Fabicki (Love, Odeon Rybarczyk Productions ( www.odeon.com.pl) and Jan Komasa (City; Film Miasto).

    The number of international coproductions made with Polish partners in 2011 is likely to be over a dozen, with six major projects that received financing from PISF to date. They include a new drama from Jacek Borcuch, the Polish-Spanish co-production entitled Lasting Moments that is currently shooting in Spain, produced by Manana (www.manana.pl); Sanctuary, a first feature produced by Andrzej Wajda Master School Of Film Directing (www.wajdaschool.pl) made in coproduction with Ireland and directed by Norah McGettingen; and Carnage, the new title from Roman Polański, a coproduction between France, Germany, Spain and Poland, that recently premiered internationally at the 68th Venice IFF.

    2011 is a year of promising and successful debuts in Polish cinema. Suicide Room directed by Janek Komasa and produced by Studio Filmowe KADR (www.sfkadr.com) reached an impressive 800,000 cinema admissions. The Mole directed by Rafael Lewandowski and produced by Metro Films (www.metrofilms.com.pl) received the Best Actor Award during the 35th Montreal World FF. Several debuts received high critical praise including Fear Of Flying directed by Bartosz Konopka and produced by Akson Studio (www.akson-studio.pl), The Courage directed by Greg Zgliński and produced by Opus Film (www.opusfilm.com) and My Name Is Ki, a drama from Leszek Dawid produced by Skorpion Arte, that screened in the Venice Days section at the 68th Venice IFF. "Each of these filmmakers has their own, unique film voice. It's worthing pointing out that each of them is interested in completely different elements of the present reality and they are presenting it in a very mature way. This allows us to have an optimistic outlook in to the future," Rafał Jankowski, the Press Officer of PISF told FNE.

    One of the most important Polish productions of 2011 is In Darkness, a new drama from Agnieszka Holland chosen as the Polish Oscar candidate. The moving WWII drama is a coproduction between Polish Studio Filmowe ZEBRA (www.zebrafilm.pl), Canadian company The Film Works Ltd. and Germany's Schmidtz Katze Filmkollektiv (www.schmidtzkatze.eu). 2011 is also a year of significant period dramas in Polish cinema, with 700,000 admissions achieved by Black Thursday directed by Antoni Krauze. The historical drama about the tragic Polish workers riots of December 1970 was produced by is NORDFILM (www.nordfilm.pl) in co-production with Agencja-Set, National Culture Center (Narodowe Centrum Kultury,www.nck.pl) and BOB-ROLLO Sp. z o.o. One of the most interesting and critically praised productions of the year was Lech Majwski's experimental The Mill and The Cross. An artistic and challenging drama inspired by Pieter Bruegel's art was a coproduction between Poland and Sweden with the financial support of PISF and Polish public broadcaster TVP.

    Attendance results from the first half of 2011 indicate that the drop in the number of viewers noted in 2010 was incidental. In the first half of 2011, over 5.7 million Poles visited the cinemas to watch locally produced titles, which is more then the number of viewers for the whole of 2010. The leaders in Polish box office are a Polish comedy Och Karol 2 directed by Piotr Wereśniak (1.7 million viewers), Polish star Cezary Pazura's directing debut Weekend (719,000), the critically acclaimed Suicide Room directed by Jan Komasa (792,000) and Black Thursday (667,000). Exhibitors have high hopes for the upcoming premiere of Warsaw Battle Of 1920, one of the biggest Polish film projects of the last decade and the first film with full 3D technology, directed by Jerzy Hoffman set to open in cinemas on 30 September 2011.

    Apart from good attendance results, Polish cinema has also been increasingly visible at international film events in 2011. Five Polish titles screened at the 61st Berlin IFF and several Polish productions and coproductions were selected for prestigious International Film Events in Locarno, Moscow, Kralovy Vary, Toronto and Venice. The most significant achievements of Polish filmmakers this year include the Silver Bear Award to Wojciech Staroń during the 61st Berlin IFF for his work in El Premio, a coproduction between Mexico, France, Poland and Germany and co-financed by PISF. Suicide Room by Jan Komasa was recognized with the The Blue Angel for Best Director at the 19th Art Film Fest in Bratislava. Polish actress Urszula Grabowska won the Best Actress prize at 33rd Moscow IFF the for her role in Joanna directed by Feliks Falk, and recently Borys Szyc was awarded the Best Actor prize at the 35th Monteral IFF for his performance in The Mole directed by Rafael Lewandowski.

    The strong Polish presence at major international film events resulted in several Polish titles being sold into foreign distribution. Essential Killing directed by Jerzy Skolimowski was screened in cinemas in UK and France; Polish Oscar candidate All That I Love had good results with the French audience and Tomorrow Will Be Better directed by Dorota Kędzierzwska was presented in regular distribution in Japan. The leader in the sales category for 2011 is The Mill and The Cross directed by Lech Majewski. The experimental, artistic film was sold to over 30 countries.


    Poland has nearly a thousand cinemas, with 80% of the market held by the big multiplex cinema chains. The leading companies are Cinema City (www,cinema-city.pl) with 62 multiplex cinemas with 538 screens and 110,000 seats; Multikino (www.multikino.pl) with 22 cinemas and 44,000 seats; and Helios (www.heliosnet.pl) with 26 cinemas and 28,000 seats. There are also 600 to 700 smaller, one room local cinemas which are being gradually digitalized as part of the cinema modernization project led by the Polish Film Institute. The average price of a cinema ticket in Poland is 15-17 PLN (EUR 4).


    An increase in the amount of locally produced content is also visible on the television market. Both public and private broadcasters are more engaged in producing Polish film, series and programs instead of investing in foreign titles. TVP (www.tvp.pl) is leading in the viewership numbers with original Polish shows Ranch, the soap-opera Pierwsza miłość (First Love), Dom nad rozlewiskiem (The Lake House) or Szpilki na Giewoncie (Spiked Heels on Giewont). There is also a strong trend to produce Polish versions of internationally known formats both in the series genre with local versions of hits such as Everybody Loves Raymond, Ugly Betty, Cold Feet, Father Matthew and Skinny's Men. TVP, TVN (www.tvn.pl) and Polsat (www.polsat.pl) also noted very good results with locally produced music and dance competition shows such as Polish versions of the Idol, X Factor, Dancing with the Stars, Must Be the Music and So You Think You Can Dance. Polish television and film production also were boosted in 2011 by the stronger involvement of cable channels. Canal+ (www.canalplus.pl) announced that the company has decided to expand its co-operation with leading Polish directors and jointly produce at least two new television series in 2012. So far Canal+ has moved into production with two new Polish shows and supported the new film of Małgorzata Szumowska entitled Nowhere. 2011 also marks the first HBO (www.hbo.pl) production made in Poland, the local version of the hit In Treatment series. More locally made content is also part of the strategy planned by TLC (www.tlcpolska.pl) that has already produced aPolish version of the British reality show Don't Tell The Bride.