Poland's Directing Discovery: Malgorzata Szumowska

By Krzysztof Kwiatkowski
    Malgorzata Szumowska, director of 33 Scenes from Life turns out to be the directing discovery of 2008 in Poland.

    Born in 1973, the daughter of a well-known Polish journalist and a documentary film-maker Szumowska graduted from Lodz film school in 1998. During her studies, she directed two short films: Silence and Ascension, which was presented Cannes. She made her feature film debut in 2000 with Happy Man which was nominated for the European Film Award. She received another EFA nomination for Stranger, a film about unwanted pregnancy, which received cold reviews in Poland.

    In 2008, she made 33 Scenes from Life, a painful film, based on her own experiences, which received the Silver Leopard Special Jury Prize at the Locarno film festival. At the Polish festival in Gdynia, Szumowska was chosen the best director of the year. 33 Scenes from Life is a story about death and loss of parents, but also about an attempt at reconciliation with fate and the future. The main role in this Polish-German co-production is played by Julia Jentsch.

    The characteristic feature of her work is drawing inspiration from her own biography and a brave outlook on people's feelings without compromises. "33 Scenes from Life and a documentary film entitled "There is Nothing to be Afraid Of are my first films for the people. Before that, I was making films for myself," claims the director. The film was also a commercial success, attracting over 150,000 viewers in its first month in release. Critics were generous with their praise, calling Szumowska the first strong female Polish director since Agnieszka Holland, and lauding her artistic candour and willingness to break taboos.

    Szumowska's film was a coproduction with Germany's Pandora film studio. She is currently working with Denmark's Zentropa studio. In the near future, she is plans to make a film about student prostitutes in Paris and is preparing a screenplay for a contemporary Polish film.