Polish film festival has roots in history

Scene from Chemo.| Photos courtesy of the filmmakers.

Scene from Chemo.| Photos courtesy of the filmmakers.

Film has always been used as a mean of expression. In Polish culture, the medium serves as a window to the past as well as a means to explore contemporary life in Poland.

Vancouver Polish Film Festival (VPFF) returns (Oct. 21–23) with a selection of ten unique films. Co-presented by Simon Fraser University’s Woodward’s Cultural Programs, it will be held at the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts in Downtown Vancouver.

In previous years, VPFF has screened Warsaw 44, a film about the Warsaw uprising, and Black Thursday, which details the brutal suppression of the workers’ protests in 1970. Colonel Kuklinski, the tale of a communist soldier in the Polish Army – who worked with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and warned the United States of America against the introduction of martial law in Poland in 1981 – has also been featured.

“Many Polish film productions refer to events of national history, especially the tragic moments during the Second World War and to the time of Solidarity, when martial law was introduced in 1981,” says Victoria Kowalski, marketing coordinator of this year’s VPFF.

Scene from Jarocin. Rock for Freedom.| Photos courtesy of the filmmakers.

Scene from Jarocin. Rock for Freedom.| Photos courtesy of the filmmakers.

Dramas and documentaries highlight festival

During its three day run, the festival will show a variety of unique films to entice, inspire and invoke emotions from audiences.

“The festival will begin with a documentary, which will also be the film’s North American premiere, Jarocin. Rock for Freedom. The documentary shows the history of the most famous rock festival of the 80s in Eastern Europe. To this day, this festival continues annually. This year, Vancouver’s D.O.A. took part in the festival,” says Kowalski.

Blindness, which will also be screened on the same day, tells the true story of the female Polish police officer and interrogator – also known as the Bloody Luna (a name given to her by her victims) –during World War II and her transformations in the 60s, says Kowalski. The music for Blindness was written by Vancouver film composer Shane Harvey, who will also be attending its screening.

Alternatively, VPFF will be showing Chemo on its second night. Inspired by Magdalena Prokopowicz, Chemo is an emotional romantic film about Lena, a cancer patient, and Benek, a depressed photographer. The movie tackles love at first sight, courage, and the struggle of illness. Prokopowicz, who died in 2012, was the founder of Rak ‘n’ Roll Foundation, and one of the first Polish people to openly speak about cancer and her journey with it.

“[It’s] an excellent role for Agnieszka Żulewska, who will be our guest at this years’ festival,” says Kowalski.

Scene from Blindness.| Photos courtesy of the filmmakers

Scene from Blindness.| Photos courtesy of the filmmakers

Growing interest in Polish productions

Although Vancouver is said to have over thirty thousand Canadians with Polish origins, those that come out for cultural events such as VPFF are significantly less. Regardless, Kowalski explains the festival has repeat spectators attending every year and watching every film.

“From year to year, the number of spectators has been increasing. All the films have English subtitles and the event is conducted in two languages – English and Polish. We have seen many spectators of non-Polish background, who have heard about Poland and want to see European cinema,” says Kowalski.

While being a relatively new festival, the VPFF has opened itself to members of all cultures and communities aiming to celebrate Polish culture and cinematography.


For more information, please visit www.vpff.ca.