If It Happens
Tomek is now eighteen years old. Exactly twelve years ago, when he was six, we started shooting our film. What happened during this time?
Church bells ring over a beautiful world of harmony which is underpinned with emptiness. Something is missing here. Is it sense? Or an aim? Or bonding? This documentary, which seemingly resembles an educational movie about the post, shows what happens to the letters without address sent to the persons who do not exist. Among them there is one on which a child’s hand has written ‘God. Heaven.’ The letters end up in the Department of Unsent Mail in Koluszki.
Polish-Belarusian co-production, inspired by Andrzej Wajda. The journey of families of officers murdered in Katyn to the place of the Cheka crime scene serves as a pretext to show the living memory of the crime alongside the attempts to falsify the truth and the story of local people who live in the shadow of the Katyn atrocity. Awards: 1990 - Silver Sesterce, Nyon International Documentary Film Festival; Journalists' Award at the Krakow International Short Film Festival; Grand Prix "Zlote Grono" at the Lagow Lubuskie Film Summer (ex aequo with 45-89); 1991 - Prix Europa, Reykjavik.
45-89 (Forty Five - Eighty Nine)
45-89 (FORTY FIVE - EIGHTY NINE). Four-part documentary series showing the history of communist Poland seen from the point of view of the left. Public activity and history of post-war Poland is discussed by Lechoslaw Gozdzik, one of the most pronounced champions of the "thaw" of October 1956; Jan Jozef Lipski and Jacek Kuron, members of the Workers' Defence Committee and Solidarity champions; and Zbigniew Bujak, a Solidarity leader. The propaganda vision of communist Poland is shown through fragments of official documentaries in the background. Tadeusz Lubelski called 45-89 "the first filmed synthesis of communist Poland ". Awards: 1990 - Grand Prix of the Lubuskie Film Summer in Lagow (ex aequo with LAS KATYNSKI); Edmonton International Film Festival.
Seven Jews from My Class
A meeting with seven classmates who had to leave Poland because of the 1968 anti-Semitic witch-hunt. Awards: 1993 - Special Award (ex aequo with 89 MM OD EUROPY) at the 1st Polish Television Productions Festival.
89mm from Europe
89 MM OD EUROPY [89 MM FROM EUROPE]. The Polish-Belarusian border in Brzesc. Wheels are replaced under the train carriages entering the territory of the former USSR, where the gauge is 89 mms wider. Two worlds meet at the platform: the western world of the train passengers and the eastern world of the Belarusian workers. The two groups are unable to understand each other. Polish-French co-production.
A story of the businessman - Longin Frankowski, a nationalist, whose business was to remove rubbish out of the city of Warsaw. He started it after 1989, then went bankrupt. He tries to blame national minorities for his failure.
Warsaw 94 – A Sentimental Trip
The filmmaker Andrzej Koszyk and the celebrated opposition bard, journalist and writer Jacek Kaczmarski take a journey across Warsaw, the city in which they were born and grew up.
AFTER THE VICTORY: 1989-95
French-Polish production. A feature-length film about the first five years of the 3rd Polish Republic, intended as the fifth part of the series initiated by the four parts of 45-89. It was found - quite rightly so - lacking in objectivity that 45-89 possessed and offering a biased (reflecting only one political option) interpretation of recent history.
Anything Can Happen
Polish-German co-production. A story of life and death, featuring Lozinski's six-year-old son Tomaszek and elderly people spending time on the benches of a Warsaw park. Riding his scooter, Tomaszek asks the elderly very adult, though basic, questions, which they are happy to answer. The boy's ideas of future and life are confronted with those of men at the end of their lives.
So It Doesn't Hurt
Second part of WIZYTA, made twenty-four years later. Urszula Flis, the woman who runs a country farm on her own, is revisited by the photo-reporter Erazm Ciolek and the "Gazeta Wyborcza" journalist Agnieszka Kublik. The film makes a reference to the first visit, which focused on the interference of the media in Flis's life, the attempts of the communist Polish propaganda to manipulate her. A film about loneliness, lost (or won?) life, the limits of filmmakers' interference in the life of a documentary protagonist. Flis herself sets such a limit, saying "let it not hurt". Awards: 1998 - 3rd prize at the 9th Balticum Film and Television Festival at Bornholm; Golden Dove for a short documentary at the Leipzig Film Festival; Special Award at the International Documentary and Anthropology Festival in Parnu (Estonia).
Polish-US co-production, made for Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation using the Foundation's materials. Holocaust stories of four Polish Jews, illustrated with photographs of the Auschwitz March of the Living.
How It's Done
"How it's done" is a provocative vision of the Polish model of democracy as well as being an ironic and at the same time terrifying portrait of Poland's political stage, based on a three-year observation of an experiment conducted by the Polish political marketing guru Piotr Tymochowicz whose objective was to prove that anyone could be elevated to the summits of power.
A purge in the style of those of March 1968 is to take place at a party meeting. Instead, it turns into a psychodrama. Although officially not stopped by censorship, the film was only shown at the Krakow Short Film Festival and at Film Clubs.
Tonia and Her Children
11-year-old Werka and her 9-year-old brother Marcel wind up at the front door of a children's home in Wrocław. Asked who they are, Werka replies, "We are the children of communists." In return the teacher yells, "Why do they only send us Judeo communists?" It is 1949. Werka's and Marcel's mother, a pre-war communist, is arrested and charged with collaborating with American intelligence. She will do five and half years. Her children will spend these years in children's homes. A film about a brother and a sister marked by the ideological choices of their parents.
A film about censorship. Lozinski wanted to make a documentary film about the image of young people in present-day Poland.
A journalist who operates a radio station in a factory conducts a sociological survey among the workers to find out to what extent they feel responsible for what is going on in their factory. The results of the survey are quite astounding.
Marcel Łoziński (born 17 May 1940, Paris) is a Polish film director and screenwriter. He has directed 22 films since 1972. He earned his degree in Film Directing from Łódź Film School. He has made a number of excellent documentaries, which include The Visit (1974), Front Collision (1975), How to Live (1977), Microphone’s Test (1980), Practice Exercises (1984), Anything Can Happen (1995), So It Doesn’t Hurt (1998), How It’s Done (2006). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for 89mm from Europe (1993). Since 1995, member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science awarding Oscars. Lectured at FEMIS film school and the School of Polish Culture of the Warsaw University; ran documentary film workshops in Marseilles. Since 2005 he has been the head of the documentary programme at the Andrzej Wajda Master School of Film Directing. Łoziński's main focus of interest lies in the everyday life of ordinary people; when observing them it is not sensation he is searching for but the essence of the matter, the mystery.
Feature film director, documentary filmmaker. Born 1940 in Paris.
Prior to enrolling at the Lodz Film School in 1967, Lozinski graduated from Warsaw Polytechnic, Department of Communication, and worked for a few years as a sound engineer at the Warsaw Documentary Studio (WFD). He completed his direction studies in 1971, but it was not until 1976 that he obtained his degree, by which time he could boast some serious documentary filmmaking achievement. His pre-graduation project was ZMIANA [A CHANGE] and WIDZIANE Z DOLU [SEEN FROM UNDERNEATH], two parts of a TV film made together with Pawel Kedzierski, and ZDERZENIE CZOLOWE [A HEAD-ON COLLISION] [aka "Front Collision"] was his graduation work.
In the 1970s and 1980s Lozinski was associated first with the Polish Television, then with Andrzej Wajda's Studio X and with the Warsaw Documentary Studio. He was expelled from the latter by the Minister of Culture in 1980, his two consecutive films stopped by censorship, but re-joined in August of the same year. He gave up making documentaries under the martial law, though accepted the Warsaw Institute of Psychoneurology's commission for a project on alcoholism, and, with the Warsaw Documentary Studio, registered major developments in the underground Solidarity. The mid-1980s saw him return to individual documentary filmmaking. Most of his 1990s film were made at the Kalejdoskop Film Studio.
Lozinski lectures at Andrzej Wajda's Master School of Film Directing and is a member of the American Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Academy.
He is one of the internationally most acclaimed Polish film documentary filmmakers, boasting prizes from numerous film festivals, including Oberhausen, Krakow, San Francisco and Leipzig, and holding prestigious lifetime awards, most notably 1995 "Polityka's Passport" in the film category, 1995 Culture Foundation's Award, 2000 Minister of Culture and National Heritage award, the 2004 "Jancio Wodnik" Award at the 11th "PROVINCJONALIA" NATIONAL FILM ART FESTIVAL in Wrzesnia, and the Andrzej Wajda Freedom Award received at the INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL in Berlin in 2004. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his documentary 89 MM OD EUROPY [89 MM FROM EUROPE] in 1994.
1971 witnessed a generational change in Polish documentary, with debuts by young filmmakers such as Tomasz Zygadlo, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Wojciech Wiszniewski and Pawel Kedzierski. As a group, they moved away from neo-realistic, objective registration of reality advocated mainly by Kazimierz Karabasz, and, according to Miroslaw Przylipiak, veered towards describing social reality and unravelling the non-presented world ("Kwartalnik Filmowy" 23/1998). Lozinski was one of the leading directors of the generation whose films were marked by "a skepticism of official, façade life which was at odds with individual experience" and revealed the inconsistency "between the official and personal living", wrote Malgorzata Hendrykowska in "Kronika kinematografii polskiej 1895-1997" [A Chronicle of Polish Filmmaking: 1895-1997], Warszawa 1999. This is a very apt comment on Lozinski's documentaries made in communist Poland, for PROBA MIKROFONU [THE MICROPHONE TEST], ZDERZENIE CZOLOWE [A HEAD-ON COLLISION], HAPPY END, KROL [THE KING] and EGZAMIN DOJRZALOSCI [MATRICULATION], now considered documentary classics of the period, were indeed akin to political and social essays. One could venture a statement that Lozinski was particularly vocal in manifesting his views - and paid a high price for that. Krzysztof Kornacki, author of a comprehensive review of Lozinski's films ("Polityka, psychologia i czlowiek - tworczosc Marcela Lozinskiego" [Politics, Psychology and the Man. The Films of Marcel Lozinski], "Kwartalnik Filmowy" 23/1998), points out that only four of Lozinski's twelve films made before 1980 (WIZYTA [A VISIT], ZDERZENIE CZOLOWE [A HEAD-ON COLLISION], FILM NR 1650 [FILM NO. 1650] and DOTKNIECIE [THE TOUCH] were distributed in a more or less regular way. The rest were stopped from release or interfered with by the authorities, often without Lozinski's knowledge, as in the case of KOLO FORTUNY [WHEEL OF FORTUNE]. This, as well as Lozinski's choice to grow silent under the martial law, accounted for a very poor awareness of his achievement when 1989 brought the change of the system, and it took two resounding documentaries made in the early 1990s (89 MM OD EUROPY [89 MM FROM EUROPE] and WSZYSTKO MOZE SIE PRZYTRAFIC [ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN] to raise it.
The afore-mentioned Krzysztof Kornacki considers 1989 the key milestone in Lozinski's work and observes that the evolution of his interests was typical of his generation of documentary filmmakers, moving from the
"involved commentary" of the critical documentaries of the 1970s to "an attempt to speak straightforwardly in the brief period from August 1980 to December 1981, followed by an 'absence' in the decade of the martial law and by a sudden revival with very important and very good 'accountability films' after the breakthrough of 1989, to small-scale, intimate documentaries about the human being".
As a matter of fact, there was no period of "straightforward speaking", even though Lozinski played a major role during Solidarity's heyday, his banned films such as JAK ZYC [RECIPE FOR LIFE] [aka "How to live?"], EGZAMIN DOJRZALOSCI [MATRICULATION] and PROBA MIKROFONU [THE MICROPHONE TEST] finally released and winning prizes at Krakow and Lagow festivals. PROBA MIKROFONU, shot at the Warsaw Pollena-Uroda cosmetics factory, seems particularly important. A company radio broadcaster asks workers if they feel that they own the plant and then confronts what they have said with what the management says. Made in 1980, this documentary seems to be ahead of its time. Showing the relationship between the ruled and the rulers, it reveals the truth about who really runs the country. Incidentally, this theme was taken up in many other films made in the wake of events of August 1980 using the formula of Krzysztof Kieslowski's famous GADAJACE GLOWY [TALKING HEADS].
In general, Kornacki has a point, also when he lists the topics raised by Lozinski before 1989: the individual versus unifying social and political mechanisms (ZDERZENIE CZOLOWE, HAPPY END), collective mentality (JAK ZYC, EGZAMIN DOJRZALOSCI, KROL, MOJE MIEJSCE [MY PLACE], DOTKNIECIE) and the role of the media in the mechanisms of political indoctrination (PROBA MIKROFONU, CWICZENIA WARSZTATOWE [WORKSHOP PRACTICE] and, partly, WIZYTA). According to Kornacki, these films are "not so much about man as about the individual", yet he discerns "deep footprints of humanity" in WIZYTA, an interpretation confirmed by Lozinski himself in ZEBY NIE BOLALO [SO IT DOESN'T HURT]. Made twenty-four years later, this documentary has the same protagonist, Urszula Flis, a woman living in the country partly by choice and partly by necessity, her interests and intellectual standards setting her apart from the locals. These "footprints" were, however, missed by Tadeusz Sobolewski, the noted film critic, who made a rather unfortunate comparison between WIZYTA and PROBA MIKROFONU ("Film" 15/1981). Reporting on the Krakow Festival in 1981, Bozena Janicka wrote aptly that PROBA MIKROFONU was about the attitude of "the authorities to public aspirations" ("Film" 26/1981). Yet Sobolewski was right about most of Lozinski's films: they tell us nothing about "the filmmaker's soul, but a lot about the collective soul". One could add that they sometimes tell us a lot about social schizophrenia. Take EGZAMIN DOJRZALOSCI, in which Lozinski confronts the students' answers in the exam room - all in line with the propaganda - with the spiteful comments they make with regard to the same propaganda in the corridor.
Lozinski's period of "account-settling", though brief, resulted in films which, however similar to those made by others, will without doubt remain an important insight into the Polish history and collective trauma of the nation faced with the challenge of evaluating its past. These films include SWIADKOWIE [WITNESSES], made in 1988 and showing the views of the inhabitants of Kielce, participants and witnesses of the so-called Kielce pogrom of 1946; LAS KATYNSKI [KATYN Forest], a 1989 documentary treating of the hushed crime, the trauma of relatives unable to bury their dead, and the people who had to live in the shadow of the crime scene, a place symbolic of the communist empire; and 45-89, an early 1990s vision of history of communist Poland as seen by the non-partite, defiant left which tried to change the system.
In a paper "Film dokumentalny wobec transformacji ustrojowej w Polsce" [The Documentary Film and Transformation of Poland's System] delivered at Jagiellonian University (published in "Dokument po przelomie" [The Post-Breakthrough Documentary], ed. J. Glowa, Krakow 1999), Jerzy Uszynski pointed out the shift of the centre of gravity which occurred in the Polish documentaries in the 1990s. He used Lozinski as a an example. The shift was from socially-involved to philosophical (I would rather go for "existential") themes, from focus on the individual to focus on man. Uszynski observes that some of Lozinski's films of that time could have been made anytime and anywhere. The flagship films of this trend were WSZYSTKO MOZE SIE PRZYTRAFIC [ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN] and the aforementioned ZEBY NIE BOLALO [SO IT DOESN'T HURT]. Uszynski adds the Oscar-nominated 89 MM OD EUROPY [89 MM FROM EUROPE], a documentary showing the enduring gap between the West and the East.
This inclusion is debatable, for 89 MM OD EUROPY reminds one more of the metaphorical socio-political films from the communist times, the human dimension of the bonding of the six-year-old Tomaszek and the Belarusian worker replacing chassis at a border train station providing the only link to the other two films. Well, not really the only one, for the same Tomaszek appears in Lozinski's deepest and, possibly, best film WSZYSTKO MOZE SIE PRZYTRAFIC, a story of life, death, hope-filled curiosity of a young boy and the bitter experience of old age.
To Lozinski, like to many filmmakers of his generation, it is not only the "what" that matters, but also the "how". It is a hallmark of their films that they are conceived, staged and artistically provocative. While it was Wojciech Wiszniewski who went furthest in this regard, Lozinski also applied broadly understood creation, for instance in ZDERZENIE CZOLOWE and MOJE MIEJSCE, and provocation, like in HAPPY END made with Pawel Kedzierski, or in his other resounding films, such as PROBA MIKROFONU and JAK ZYC. Lozinski himself spoke a number of times about his search for a catalyst to help with or accelerate the extraction of truth about people and situations. He would use this catalyst not only when tracking down the negative features of the system or putting together a rather unfavourable portrait of the Polish society, but also at a later stage. Take LAS KATYNSKI, in which the daughter of a Polish officer murdered in Katyn encourages the confessions of Russians living in the shadow of that crime, or WSZYSTKO MOZE SIE PRZYTRAFIC, where the catalyst is Lozinski's s six-year-old son.
When interviewed by Tadeusz Sobolewski while shooting JAK ZYC, the acclaimed film made in the Zespol X Studio (headed by Andrzej Wajda) as a full-length feature (and quoted as such in film encyclopedias), yet - significantly - considered a documentary by Lozinski, he confessed:
"I am interested neither in pure documentaries nor in features. When making a 'pure documentary', you just watch. In features you use pre-conceived outlines. I try to benefit from both genres. … Someone said that to make a film is to find the moment of balance between your own idea and what the reality suggests. I try to influence the reality and then treat openly the situation which has been created." ("Film" 36/1976)
This statement was reinforced with his comment on the making of JAK ZYC [RECIPE FOR LIFE]:
"The best thing ... is that finally you do not really know what has been staged and what is life."
These comments are true of almost all of Lozinski's films, though his interference ranged from limited, as in JAK ZYC, to substantial. At times it was so substantial that it was found too far-reaching. Lozinski, though, would say he did not want to bend life to suit his directing intentions, to simplify or to manipulate. Yet because of his interference certain of his films have lost the characteristics of the documentary. Referring to the controversy around Lozinski's method of "opening the reality", Krzysztof Kornacki calls JAK ZYC "a documentary with a large number of staging tricks". This does not resolve the controversy, though. The protagonists of JAK ZYC, staying at a Union of Young Polish Socialists camp, did not know that Lozinski controlled several of the key campers, that they were acting and that, consequently, the situations they provoked would be more in place in a feature than in a documentary. Naturally, this does not change the metaphorical message of the film, with its vision of a system suggestive of a penal camp in which everybody is constantly watched and assessed by the invisible management and by one another. Nor does it diminish the artistic merit of Lozinski's films. He uses his method in a masterly fashion, applying it as a tool to help extract what he considers of primary importance. After all, what really matters is to get down to the truth about the people or the mechanics of political and social systems, and, ultimately, of history.
East Silver Caravan - 2008