Polish Film Instutute Fifth Anniversary Special: Polish Film Institute Redefines the Film Industry

By Katarzyna Grynienko

    Since its launch five years ago, the Polish Film Institute (PISF) has defined and modernized the film industry in Poland. A modern system of public financing and support for film professionals has resulted in a constant growth both in local production and international recognition of Polish cinema.

    The Polish Film Institute (www.pisf.pl) was created in 2005, under a cinematography bill which brought a much needed reform to the Polish cinema industry. Similar to organizations in other EU countries, the Polish Film Institute's main tasks are financing film production, distribution of local movies, education of the viewers and film professionals, and promoting Polish cinema abroad. Since 2005, the Institute has been headed by Agnieszka Odorowicz, who was chosen for her second term as PFI's Director in July 2010.

    "PFI is the most stable element of the Polish film production financing system, and the rules of assigning funds are clear, based on the best European models. The Institute is the guaranty of independence for filmmakers, ensuring that they are not under a dictate of commercial cinema or political control," Odorowicz explained.

    The five years of PFI marks a great turn in Polish cinema, especially in the number of local productions created each year. The formation of the Institute activated filmmakers and developed the national film industry, supporting most of the Polish movies made in the last five years. Between 2006 and 2009 PFI supported 118 feature films (including 44 debuts), 73% of all features produced by the Polish market in that time. During these years 141 documentaries films and 42 animated productions were also created with funding from PFI. Since 2006, the Institute has signed 433 contracts with the producers of features, documentaries and animations, 264 of which have been completed.

    The last five years had also brought a significant increase in PFI's budget, which grew from 75 million PLN in 2006 to 140 million PLN (EUR 35.6 million) in 2010. The funds assigned for film production increased from 52 million PLN in 2005 to 109 million PLN in 2010, which is 73% of the total PFI's budget for the year.

    The support of the Institute was quickly appreciated by the local producers and filmmakers, which is visible in the number of applications, which is growing each year. In the last five years Polish film professionals submitted over 6,000 of applications, 1,773 of which were for film production.

    One of the most important goals of PFI was to develop Polish co-operation with other film markets. The Institute's activity made the Polish cinema industry competitive and attractive for international producers. Between 2006 and 2009 the Institute co-financed 31 full feature co-productions including 33 Scenes From Life by Małgorzata Szumowska , Essential Killing and Four Nights With Anna by Jerzy Skolimowski, Night Watching by Peter Greenaway, Brothers Karamazov by Petr Zelenka, Inland Empire by David Lynch, and 22 internationally produced documentaries and 4 animated films.

    Since 2006 the Institute has assigned 28 million PLN for promoting local cinema abroad by supporting most of the existing festivals and reviews devoted to Polish movies, taking part and organizing Polish stands during international film events, co-financing the trips of local film professionals abroad as well as organizing exhibitions, promotion parties and concerts. Each year the Institute publishes the English language catalogues Film Production Guide, Poland, New Polish Films and Polish Documentaries to present the newest achievements of Polish cinema and the international co-production potential of the Polish market. For the last five years, PFI had also been in charge of the Oscar campaigns for Polish nominations candidates.

    The growing number of local films made in Poland is the result of a strong focus on developing and supporting new filmmakers by PFI. Since 2007, the Operational Program "Film Production" guarantees special funds for film debuts and second production by a new filmmaker. Currently 20% of funds in each of the four operational programs offered by PFI must be assigned for debut projects. In the last five years PFI co-financed 22 debut documentaries, 4 animations and 58 full features, 44 of which have already been produced. The debuts include titles recognized during international film festivals such as Mall Girls by Katarzyna Rosłaniec (produced by WFDiF, www.wfdif.com.pl), Reverse by Borys Lankosz (Studio Filmowe Kadr, wwww.kadr.com.pl), Zero by Paweł Borowski (Opus Film, www.opusfilm.com) and Mother Teresa Of Cats by Pawel Sala (Zespoł Filmowy Rozwój). PFI is also the co-creator of the Munk Studio (www.studiomunka.pl), a project realized with the Polish Filmmakers Association (www.sfp.org.pl) which co-finances short feature debut films in the programs "30 minutes," "First documentaries" and "Young animation."

    Films supported by PFI have generated both local and international success. They were screened at the most prestigious international film festivals including the IFF in Berlin, Venice, Cannes, Tokyo, Pusan, Locarno and Karlovy Vary. One of the biggest successes of the Polish cinema in the last five years was the Oscar for the animated film Peter And The Wolf by Suzie Templeton (Break Through Films,www.breakthrufilms.pl) the Oscar nomination for Katyń by Andrzej Wajda (Akson Studio, www.akson-studio.pl)and Rabbit A La Berlin by Bartosz Konopka (MS Films, www.msfilms.pl), Special Jury Award during the 34th IFF in Venice for Essential Killing by Jerzy Skolimowski (Skopia Film,www.skopiafilm.com), the Special Jury Prize for Venice by Jan Jakub Kolski (Akson Studio) during the 34th IFF in Montreal as well as several international awards for Tricks by Andrzej Jakimowski (ZAIR,www.zair.eu), Tulpan by Siergiej Dworcewoj (Pandora Film, www.pandorafilm.com), 33 Scenes From Life by Małgorzata Szumowska, Four Nights With Anna by Jerzy Skolimowski (Alfama Films, www.alfamafilms.com, Skopia Film)and Sweet Rush by Andrzej Wajda (Akson Studio). Several productions co-financed by PFI also noted a great distribution success, such as Tricks, which had theatrical distribution in over 30 countries, and Katyń, sold to over 70 countries worldwide.

    During the last couple of years not only the production, but also the cinema attendence in Poland had noted a growth from 23.3 million viewers in 2005 to 40 million in 2009. Last year the frequency of viewers choosing Polish movies had grown 10 times, from 24 local productions seen by 0.8 million Poles in 2005, to 37 Polish titles seen by 8.6 million viewers last year. The most popular local films included several titles supported by PFI, such as Katyń, Popiełuszko. Freedom Is Within Us by Rafał Wieczynski (Focus Producers, www.popieluszko.pl), Love And Dance by Bruce Parramore (TVN, www.tvn.pl) and Reverse. The Institute is also supporting and modernizing local cinemas, creating an alternative for the growing number of multiplex chains. Since 2006, PFI granted 13 million PLN to 211 local and studio cinema halls throughout the country. The Institute is also engaged in popularizing film culture in Poland. In the years 2006-2009, 43 million PLN was assigned for funding scholarships, educational projects and festivals, as well as the digitization of Polish cinemas and the digital reconstruction of classic Polish films. In 2010 the promotion of film culture in Poland was supported by PFI with 18.55 million PLN.

    In the last two years the Institute introduced a modern system of 11 Regional Film Funds, which are financing local film titles and promoting the production potential of each region. Another innovative project is the film education program designed for high school students Filmoteka Szkolna (www.filmotekaszkolna.pl), which is the first such initiative in Europe.

    "The biggest value of our work in the last five years was enabling several dozen young filmmakers to develop artistically by realizing etudes and degree films, debut short features and documentary films as part of the 30 Minutes Program, 46 films at the Munk Studio, and 50 professional full feature debuts. The value that definitely cannot be over appreciated is the present diversity of Polish cinema," Odorowicz concluded.