All These Sleepless Nights

Indelible Portraits: Polish Hybrid Nonfiction

June 2–4, 2017

Presented in collaboration with the Polish Cultural Institute New York

The key impulse behind making documentary films is so that others, directors and viewers alike, feel less alone. It’s about seeking communication, discovering common fears, weaknesses, and dreams.” – Marcel Łoziński

Polish documentary came into its own in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, when the first political thaw after Stalin’s death made it possible to speak openly about social and political ills. A “black series” of documentaries spoke out about dire conditions in post-war Poland. But by the 1970s and ‘80s, filmmakers realized that social commentary was not enough. They craved a new approach to form. The resulting films were bold and inventive. They were also metaphorical and clever, to outwit the censors. In this program, guest curator Ela Bittencourt gathers key works made in this tradition of Polish hybrid documentaries, a version of which was initially presented at the True/False Film Festival in 2015 where audiences found them revelatory. The impulse behind Indelible Portraits is to bring more of these filmmakers—some who have been only known in Poland, others who have been unjustly forgotten—to the attention of American cinemagoers.

One of them is Bogdan Dziworski, a master of plastic imagery and rhythm who was inspired by photography and contemporary visual artists such as Andy Warhol. Also featured in the series are Marek Piwowski, known for later features but whose sharp earlier portraits of people living within oppressive environments have been rarely shown, and Marcel Łoziński, who made films at a time when neither censorship nor the communist regime’s suppression of student and workers’ movements was conducive to truth telling. Among the younger generation, a formally elastic passion for portraiture can be found in the films of Zofia Kowalewska, Michał Szczęśniak, Marcin Koszałka and Michał Marczak, whose films F*ck for Forest and All These Sleepless Nights seek to expand our notion of reality to include fantasies and dreams, and have come to define the new Polish hybrid.

Organized by guest curator Ela Bittencourt