Polish Documentary Filmmakers Every Film Buff Should Know

Film roll | © Travis Rigel Lukas Hornung / Flickr
Film roll | © Travis Rigel Lukas Hornung / Flickr

From Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polański to Agnieszka Holland and Krzysztof Zanussi, film aficionados usually have no problem naming at least a few Polish fiction directors, but when asked about documentary makers their minds usually go blank. This is why we present you with this list of highly acclaimed documentary filmmakers you should know.

Krzysztof Kieślowski

Even though he may be mostly associated with metaphysical fiction features, Krzysztof Kieślowski was also an accomplished documentary filmmaker who had a great influence over the Polish Documentary School. His early works focus on portraying the collective conscientious. Films such as Fabryka (Factory, 1970), Refren (Refrain, 1972), Robotnicy ’71: nic o nas bez nas (Workers ’71: Nothing About Us Without Us, 1972) and later, Szpital (Hospital, 1976) and Gadające głowy (Talking Heads, 1980) provide a thorough examination of the communist society by focusing on individual institutions. Kieślowski’s non-fiction works often feature the “collective hero” which battles the communist state through daily struggles and hardships.

Photo from Kieślowski's "Z miasta Łodzi"

Marcel Łoziński

One of the most influential and internationally acclaimed Polish documentary filmmakers, Marcel Łoziński won prizes at some of the most prestigious film festivals both in Poland and abroad, most notably Oberhausen, Kraków, San Francisco and Leipzig. In 1994, he was also nominated for an Academy Award for his short documentary 89 mm From Europe. The eponymous 89 millimetres represents the difference in track gauge between Soviet Union’s and European railroads, acting as a metaphor for relations between the two regions. His films focus on mundane, everyday life of ordinary citizens, which makes them a great window to the consciousness of previous generations.

Paweł Łoziński

Son of Marcel Łozińki, Paweł Łoziński, just like his father, is interested in developing intimate relations with his subjects. His films usually feature human stories that are emblematic of greater socio-political phenomena. His most recent feature, You Have No Idea How Much I Love You is a recording of numerous therapy sessions between a mother and a daughter. Despite no spectacular visual effects, the film keeps its audience captivated due to extreme emotional charge the characters bring to the table.

Maciej Drygas

Maciej Drygas’ debut film “Usłyszcie mój krzyk / Hear My Cry” from 1991 tells a story of Ryszard Siwiec who set himself on fire during a large harvest festival at the Warsaw stadium in 1968 to protest the military invasion of Czechoslovakia, an act that was almost completely erased from public records. The film won many international prizes, including European Film Award. His later films also try to unpack the societal repercussions of communism. Drygas is known for his extremely lengthy pre-production processes during which he thoroughly researches his subjects. The research for his debut feature took him a year and a half.

Michał Marczak

Michał Marczak gained international recognition with his documentary Fuck For Forest which tells a story of modern-day hippies who have sex to rise money for the Amazon Rain Forest. The film which debuted at SXSW, was named as one of 10 most innovative documentaries in the recent years by Dazed and Confused magazine. Marczak’s latest project, All This Sleepless Nights, which blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction and follows two art students as they party the night away won the Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival.

Photo from All the Sleepless Nights / IMDb

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