16 October, 13:00 · Od Nowa – new hall
His each successive film is a shock to audiences, and at the same a masterpiece of cinema. Wojciech Smarzowski is a genius of Polish cinema, without any doubt, and a film director that will leave nobody indifferent. The only thing that best describes the director of The Wedding (2004), The Dark House (2009), Rose (2011), Traffic Department (2012), The Mighty Angel (2014), and Hatred (2016) is to saying that he is a very rebellious film director. And this is why he will receive a special Golden Angel for artistic insolence at the 14th edition of the Tofifest International Film Festival.
He sees a film as a task from the realm of life and death: “Doing something just for the sake of doing it? It’s a waste of time. I make money somewhere else and I treat each film, as if it would be my last one,” he explained to Tadeusz Sobolewski from “Gazeta Wyborcza” daily. His cinema breaks conventions, mixes styles and orders of things, and strips people naked, in a manner that is far from humanism. His films are disturbingly open. When you have seen any of his films, you will not find easy answers, and nothing will be black and white, so to speak.
Wojtek Smarzowski is a film and theatre director, screenwriter, and an author of documentaries, commercials, and music videos. He was born on 18th January 1963, in Korczyn, near Krosno. His educational background is cinematography. In 1990, he graduated from the Department of Photography and Television Production of the Film School in Łódź. Before becoming successful as a film director, he won many awards for his music videos, and plays made for the TV Theatre. In 1998, he received the Fryderyk Award – the most prestigious prize of the music industry — for his music video made to the song entitled To nie był film by Myslovitz. Then, he made a play entitled Kuracja (in 2001) for the TV Theatre, which was an adaptation of a novel by Jacek Głębski — the play won the Grand Prix at the “Dwa Teatry” festival in Sopot, and a Special Jury Award at the International Festival for TV films and programme in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, as well as the “Laur Konrada” Award at the All-Polish Festival of the Art of Directing INTERPRETACJE in Katowice.
His full-length debut came in 1998 with The Auricle, which won a special Jury Award for the Best Film at the Koszalin Debut Film Festival “Young and Film”, and an award for scenography at the Gdynia Film Festival. The film (or “a filmed play”, as some prefer to call it) combines a plotline and an experiment, and it is first and foremost addressed to young audiences, who grew up to MTV jingles, loud thrash and punk music, and prose of Franz Kafka.
His first big success came with The Wedding (2004). The film won four awards at the Gdynia Film Festival, four Eagle Awards, as well as one award in Cottbus, one in Locarno, and a special mention in Karlovy Vary. In a way, Smarzowski used the film to challenge our national myth — The Wedding, a drama written by Stanisław Wyspiański. All references made in the film to that drama written in the literary period of Young Poland are predominantly intended to demonstrate that nothing much has in fact changed in the Polish social landscape, for 100 years. The result was a profound, sour, and ironic portrait of our society, which was at the same time a hard-hitting critique of various circles that meet at a wedding party in the countryside. In 2004, the film brought Smarzowski the prestigious award of Polityka’s Passport in the Film category.
His successive film, The Dark House (2009), came as a big surprise, both to audiences and film critics. What followed, was a true avalanche of awards, including the following: awards for directing, script, and editing, at the Gdynia Film Festival, and the Polish Film Awards: Eagle in the following categories: Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and the Audience Award. In The Dark House, Smarzowski brutally reveals the truth about Poland under the rule of Communists, exposes demoralised services, limitations of the system, and presents the reality of that period in its entire monstrosity.
In 2011, he received a multitude of awards for his successive film, Rose (2011), which was yet another unique project in his portfolio. The film tells a story about the title Rosa, a native-born resident of Masuria, who is visited by Tadeusz, a former soldier of the Polish Home Army (AK), who lost everything during the war and was spared nothing. Despite the nightmarish reality of the post-war chaos, gangs of looters, drunk and brutal Russian soldiers, omnipresent secret police (UB — Department of Security), the two fall in love with each other. The film is a story about love happening in “inhuman times” — it won as many as six Golden Lions at the Gdynia Film Festival, including awards for Best Film and Script, and won the Grand Prix at the Warsaw Film Festival, and dominated the Ceremony of Polish Film Awards: Eagles (the film received seven awards). And that is not all, as the film also won many awards abroad, including film festivals in Viareggio, Cairo, Tallinn, and at the Ekran Toronto Polish Film Festival.
In Traffic Department, which is considered as “taking a break from tough subjects”, the director delivered a perfect vivisection of the community of police officers and the political elite. The film won the Eagle Polish Film Award for Best Script, Best Supporting Role (Arkadiusz Jakubik), and an award for Best Editing at the Gdynia Film Festival. Two years later, in 2014, Smarzowski released his adaptation of a novel by Jerzy Pilch, The Might Angel, which gave him the Silver Lion Award, and also an award for best soundtrack (awarded to Mikołaj Trzaska), and for best editing (awarded to Paweł Laskowski).
This year, he has released his latest film, Hatred, which portrays massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. It is a grand and brilliant piece of cinema, and definitely the best historic film that has been made since 1989. It is dedicated to the ethnic cleansing operation committed by Ukrainian nationalists (Ukrainian Insurgent Army — UPA) on the Polish people living in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, in the years 1943—1944. This film has stirred a lot of emotions and it will certainly have its permanent place in the history of Polish cinema. As always, Smarzowski has managed to avoid “pointing fingers at anybody”. His film is both tragic and ambiguous, as much as it is thought-provoking.
Similarly to the greatest artists of auteur cinema in the world, Smarzowski has collected a very loyal team of outstanding actor. In his films, we will usually see the following people: Arkadiusz Jakubik (Hatred, The Auricle, Traffic Department, The Dark House), Jacek Braciak (Hatred, The Mighty Angel, Traffic Department, Rosa), Bartlomiej Topa (The Mighty Angel, Traffic Department, The Dark House), Eryk Lubos (The Mighty Angel, Traffic Department, The Dark House, Rose), Marcin Dorociński (The Mighty Angel, Traffic Department, Rose), Marian Dziędziel (The Auricle, The Mighty Angel, Traffic Department, The Dark House) and the only woman in the team, Agata Kulesza (The Mighty Angel, Traffic Department, Rose), who is also a winner of the Golden Angel of Tofifest for artistic insolence. The film director has also established a constant cooperation with two cinematographers: Andrzej Szulkowski and Piotr Sobociński Jr.