Now in its 20th year of celebrating Polish culture in its many forms, the Rochester Polish Film Festival kicks off on Tuesday, November 7, and continues through Sunday, November 12. Things get started with its opening night film, "Afterimage," showing at the Dryden Theatre, and the party keeps going at The Little Theatre for the remainder of the festivities.
Hosted by the Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies at the University of Rochester, the Polish Film Festival screens some of the best of what contemporary Polish cinema has to offer. This year's biopic-heavy lineup includes seven feature films and one documentary.
Below is a preview of this year's films, all of which are in Polish with English subtitles. Visit sas.rochester.edu/psc/CPCES for ticket information and a complete schedule.
The last film from the master of Polish cinema, Andrzej Wajda, who died in 2016 at the age of 90, "Afterimage" ("Powidoki") chronicles the final years of Polish avant-garde painter and art professor WładysławStrzemiński (Bogusław Linda). It's a compelling, angry, sometimes passionate film, observing how Strzemiński fought an ultimately losing battle for artistic freedom against his country's Stalinist regime. (Tuesday, November 7; 7:15 p.m.; Dryden)
The vibrant dramedy "The Happiness of the World" ("SzczęścieŚwiata") revolves around several residents of a tenement house -- Róża, a beautiful Jewish woman, and the three men who fall for her -- just before the outbreak of the Second World War. The second half of the film jumps forward to the 1950's to find that somethings have changed, while others remain very much the same. Director Michał Rosa will be in attendance for a Q&A after the film screening. (Wednesday, November 8; 7 p.m.; Little)
Tackling the life of footballer Jan Banas (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz), the entertaining "Stars" ("Gwiazdy") follows Banas' rise to the top of the sport during the 1960's and 70's. His climb is set against a longtime rivalry, both on and off the field, with his best friend Ginter (Sebastian Fabijanski) and Marlena (Karolina Szymczak), the woman they both fell in love with. Director Jan Kidawa-Błoński will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening. (Thursday, November 9; 7 p.m.; Little)
The festival's second biopic to focus on an esteemed Polish artist, the darkly comedic "The Last Family" ("OstatniaRodzina") recounts the last 28 years in the life of controversial surrealist painter ZdzisławBeksiński (Andrzej Seweryn, who took home the best actor award at the Locarno Film Festival for the role). In his fiction feature debut, director Jan P. Matuszynski creates a suitably unconventional portrait, emphasizing the artist's relationship with his long-suffering wife Zofia (Aleksandra Konieczna) and their neurotic son Tomasz (DawidOgrodnik). (Friday, November 10; 7 p.m.; Little)
"The Art of Loving: The Story of MichalinaWisłocka" ("SztukaKochania.HistoriaMichalinyWislockiej") follows the exploits of Poland's infamous sexologist (played by Magdalena Boczarska), who literally wrote the book on love and sex in the country. The film devotes equal time to her battles with the country's censors, over the right to publish her tome, as it does to her messy personal life. Not one to be concerned with offending morality, Wisłocka placed value on women's health concerns as well as their pleasure, and in doing so was responsible for ushering Poland into a true sexual revolution. (Saturday, November 11; 3 p.m.; Little)
The often brutal World War II drama "Hatred" ("Wołyń"), centers on Zosia (MichalinaLabacz), a young woman in love with a Ukrainian boy from her village, but forced by circumstance to marry a widower with two children of his own. As the violence of the war makes its way to her doorstep and tensions between the Polish and Ukrainian villagers erupts into bloodshed, Zosia does everything she can to protect her children from the horrors that surround them. A panel discussion will follow the film. (Saturday, November 11; 7 p.m.; Little)
In the stirring documentary "A Little Poland in India," five survivors share their experiences as part of the group of about 1,000 children who escaped the prison camps of Poland and Siberia by being ushered into India during World War II. (Sunday, November 12; 3 p.m.; Little)
Directed by Marie Noëlle, the fascinating "Marie Curie, The Courage of Knowledge" ("Maria Skłodowska-Curie, OdwagaWiedzy") tells the story of the groundbreaking chemist and physicist (played by an excellent Karolina Gruszka), chronicling her life from the time she became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize to five years later when she received the prize for a second time. (Sunday, November 12; 7 p.m.; Little)