The director of the 12th Annual Polish Film Festival, Zbigniew Wojciechowski, spoke with Hair Balls about the ever-growing event, including the festival's beginnings, the current state of Polish cinema, and how he selected this year's closing film, Mala Moskwa by director Waldemar Krzystek.
Hair Balls: How did Houston's Polish Film Festival start
Zbigniew J. Wojciechowski: I organized the first Polish Film Festival in Houston in November 1997, three years after moving down from Seattle, Washington where I enjoyed [the] Polish Film Festival organized [there] by a friend of mine, Dr. Michał Friedrich. I was fascinated by [the] opportunity to share my passion, Polish films, with others. I liked an idea to give back to the community, after years of being a spectator.
The first Polish Film Festival...lasted two days, and we screened four films at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Brown auditorium. One of the most popular actresses of that time in Poland visited us. I remember having goose bumps and stomach butterflies when we started screening films. "We did it!" was going through my head.
It seems that you look at the festival as more than just entertainment, you see it as a way to build bridges between the Polish community and Houston's mainstream.
Showing Polish films at Angelika, I hope to popularize Polish cinema in Houston and have viewers to better understand who we Polish living in the US are, our history and culture. I think our festival is one of few, if not the only, ethnic film festivals that is annual and with 12-year history. It is an excellent way to communicate and to show the multinational community of Houston who the Poles are, where they come from, why they behave the way they do, what they believe in, what values they represent, how they live, what they love and how they love, et cetera. It is the great way to introduce ourselves through the expression of the visual art.
How did you select this year's films? Especially the festival's closing film, Mala Moskwa by director Waldemar Krzystek, is one of the festival's highlights.
I do not use any key to select films, I try to show very recent films made in Poland, within [the] last two to three years. Usually I [also] try to bring one older film, sort of classical film, but [we were] not able to do it this year.
I selected Mr. Krzystek's film because it won the first-place "Best Film for 2008" at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia, Poland. It was getting great reviews and high viewer numbers in Poland.
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How does today's Polish cinema compare with other contemporary European cinema? And with American films?
Polish cinema is in the mainstream of the European cinema. Polish filmmakers are widely regarded within European film community. Polish cinema can be compared to the independent American film production. It is more of the artistic expression than pure entertainment like most [of ]Hollywood's productions.
Saturday's screening schedule includes Sennosc (Drowsiness) by Magdalena Piekorz at 7 p.m. and Ile wazy Kon Trjanski by Juliusz Machulski at 9 p.m. Sunday's screening is Mala Moskwa by Waldemar Krzystek at 6 p.m. (Please note: Director Waldemar Krzystek was scheduled to introduce Sunday's screening of his film, but had to cancel his appearance due to a family emergency.) Angelika Film Center, 510 Texas. For information, call 713-225-1470 or visit www.forum-polonia-houston.com. $10.