Polish Film Institute Fifth Anniversary Special: Promoting Polish Cinema Abroad

By Katarzyna Grynienko

    One of the main goals set out by the Polish Film Institute, now celebrating its fifth anniversary, was to make Polish cinema present and engaged in the international cinema markets. For the last five years the Institute has been constantly promoting new Polish productions, which are increasingly visible not only at the biggest international film events but also in distribution abroad.

    Since 2006 the Polish Film Institute (PISF, www.pisf.pl) had given over 28 million PLN for international promotion of Polish films. In 2010 the funds for this cause reached a record 8.4 million PLN. During the last five years PISF has implemented a strategy of familiarizing the foreign audience with the Polish industry. The Institute is present at all major international film events, supports festivals and reviews of Polish cinema in almost every part of the world, co-finances the presence of Polish films and filmmakers at major festivals, and supports the sales campaigns of the films as well as campaigns for Polish Oscar and EFA nominees. Each year PISF publishes the English language Film Production Guide.Poland, New Polish Films and Polish Documentaries, which present new local productions and the co-production potential of the Polish film market.

    "Since the beginning, it was important for us to mark our presence in the biggest, most important markets in the world. These markets are determined by major film festivals. The experience of the last five years shows that international film promotion works as a cycle. We start our year in Rotterdam, and then move to Berlin in February, later on to Venice, Locarno, Toronto and so forth. But we don't pass up the smaller festivals, because Polish cinema should be present and visible everywhere. It all starts with small, but consequent steps to mark us as an important player," Izabela Kiszka-Hoflik, the Head of International Relations at PISF told FNE.

    One of the most important parts in PISF's promotion strategy is the Polish presence during festivals in Berlin and Cannes, which was virtually non-existent before the activity of the Institute. "Initially, in Berlin we shared a special Central European Cinema Stand with the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary, but this year we decided to promote our cinema separately. The previous model was a valuable experience, but not sufficient for the current state of developing cinematography in all the countries involved. We are still planning to do several interesting projects with our neighbors, but the Polish cinema has such a large number of films to present that we need an individual outlet," said Izabela Kiszka-Hofik. The Polish Cinema Stand in Berlin will be created by PISF in co-operation with the Polish Filmmakers Association (www.sfp.prg.pl) and the public broadcaster TVP (ww.tvp.pl). All Polish producers and filmmakers are invited to use this stand as a platform to promote their films at the festival. So far, three Polish titles will surely appear at the Main Section during the 61st IFF at Berlin, but the Institute is working on entering more local productions in the line up.

    The individual Polish Cinema Stand is already a tradition in Cannes, where PISF has been present for the last four years. "We set out to create a stand that would set us apart from other countries. Four years ago we decided promote Polish cinema not in the film market scene, but rent an apartment at Croisette and organize an office, as well as screening and meeting rooms there. If a Polish producer or a filmmaker wants to present his movie and talk to potential buyers we provide the needed equipment and space for him to do that. This is a strategy already tested and often chosen by big, international film companies. For example in the past years our neighbors were Focus Features and the Weinstein Company," explains Kiszka-Hoflik. "It is important to mention that during every international event we created stands marked not the "Polish Film Institute" but with a big sign "Polish Cinema," such as the one known to the guests in Cannes. It is our cinema that we set out to promote, not ourselves," she adds.

    PISF's endeavors are definitely paying of in international recognition. Since 2005 over 900 Polish productions (features, documentaries and animations) were presented at an average of 300 film events including international festivals as well as reviews and festivals of Polish cinema abroad. In 2009 Polish productions have received 95 prizes and in 2010 had surpassed that total by August.

    Apart from Europe, PFI is also exploring other markets, with a strong focus on Asia."Last year we visited FILMART Market in Hong Kong and the industry market during the IFF Tokyo. It is crucial for Polish cinema to be there and to familiarize the Asian cinema professionals with our industry, especially when the Japanese and Chinese audience is very interested in our productions and often shows a great knowledge of classic Polish cinema," comments Kiszka-Hoflik. "We want the Polish cinema to reach the foreign audience, they are the main focus of our promotion activities," she adds.

    Introducing foreign markets to the Polish film industry potential was one of the main tasks set by PISF in 2005 and after five years can be considered one of its biggest achievements. Over 60 international co-productions were financed by PISF from 2006-2009. Thanks to the Institute's support world renowned filmmakers such as David Lynch, Peter Greenaway, Petr Zelenka and Ken Loach created their films in Poland with local film professionals. "This sent out a clear signal to Europe and the whole world that Poland is willing to co-operate on interesting projects that we have the needed funds and want to invest in international titles. It promotes the Polish cinema and the Institute, which supports the co-productions with very successful results" explains Kiszka-Hoflik.

    The development of Polish cinema and its promotion possibilities also influenced the local producers and filmmakers. The Polish producers are starting to see other markets as something worth pursuing, another way to exploit and profit from an already made film. "We are providing expert advice for our film professionals, helping them in choosing the right festival or suggesting a foreign co-producer." comments Kiszka-Hoflik. "There are films that naturally fall into the co-production genre and cannot be classified as a strictly "Polish film." A great example is the very universal Essential Killing by Jerzy Skolimowski that we are trying to enter in the Oscar competition in all main categories," she adds.

    Apart from working on the promotion for Essential Killing, PISF's main focus now is the campaign for All That I Love directed by Jacek Borcuch (Prasa&Film,www.prasaifilm.pl), the Polish Oscar candidate for a nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category. " I don't know if a Polish film will win an Oscar this year, but the campaigns will go on, and we will do all that we can so that it is possible for Poland to get this prize at the right time. We cannot neglect the importance of being visible and making Polish cinema known all over the world." said Kiszka-Hoflik.