Play Poland 2021: Festival preview
Play Poland returns after a four-year hiatus to bring the best of contemporary Polish cinema to Scottish audiences
Poland’s contribution to world cinema should not be underestimated. From past greats like Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Kieślowski to current masters like Agnieszka Holland and Paweł Pawlikowski to rising stars like Agnieszka Smoczynska and Małgorzata Szumowska, this Central European nation has often pushed above its weight in the world of arthouse cinema. Yet despite this pedigree, not to mention the number of Poles who now call the UK home, Polish film still remains underrepresented on UK screens.
In direct reaction to this paucity of Polish film on our screens, Play Poland – the celebration of Polish cinema, art and culture that ran annually from 2011 to 2016 – is making a comeback. “We feel a need to bring back the festival to be able to present many aspects of Polish culture through films to diverse audiences, especially that we feel that the gap after the last edition of PPFF in 2016 has not been filled [elsewhere],” the festival’s organisers told us ahead of Play Poland 2021.
This year’s edition will be a hybrid. A physical programme of feature films will be presented at Glasgow Film Theatre and Filmhouse, Edinburgh, while Screen Academy in Edinburgh will host short film screenings and some workshops. The rest of the programme is available online. “We are very excited about the online version of the festival as it will allow more people to participate, especially those with limited access to cinemas or not attending public events due to various medical reasons or COVID restrictions,” say the festival organisers.
The programme is split into three axes – society, culture and ecology – and kicks off in physical form on 11 November at Filmhouse with 25 Years of Innocence, the true story of Tomasz Komenda’s quarter-century incarceration for a crime he did not commit. Another powerhouse true-life story is Leave No Traces (13 Nov, Filmhouse; 12 Dec, GFT), Jan P Matuszyński’s political thriller based on the murder of a young student by heavy-handed police officers in 1980s Communist Poland.
Be sure to make time for Mariusz Wilczyński’s extraordinary Kill It and Leave This Town (14 Nov, Filmhouse), a darkly comic animation exploring grief and memory, where the aesthetic suggests a hand-drawn nightmare. Also catching the eye is Amateurs (15 Nov, Filmhouse; 29 Nov, GFT), a wry backstage comedy following a troupe of actors with learning difficulties who have to step up to the big leagues when they win a prestigious festival award.
Play Poland also celebrates the life and legacy of the great Polish writer Stanisław Lem, best known for his 1961 sci-fi novel Solaris. The festival will showcase several Lem-inspired short films – The Room (Krzysztof Jankowski), The Mask (Hanka Brulińska), The Advisers of King Hydrops (Natalia Brożyńska) – and the first documentary about Lem (titled simply, Autor Solaris), which hopes to shed light on the social and historical forces that shaped him as an artist.
Play Poland, 11 Nov-2 Dec; screenings at Glasgow Film Theatre, and Filmhouse and Screen Academy in Edinburgh and online; full programme details at playpoland.org.uk