The 15th Polish Film Festival, KINOTEKA, takes place in London from March 17 to April 5. Organised by the Polish Cultural Institute, the festival showcases the best of Polish cinema and culture, offering a diverse mix of films and documentaries - both classic and contemporary - workshops and Q&As with filmmakers, in venues across the city. Inevitably, there are a number of Holocaust themed films.
The festival’s main retrospective programme is dedicated to the memory of Andrzej Wajda, the giant of post-war Polish cinema who died last October. KINOTEKA will be screening a selection of his films including Kanal (1957), the story of a group of resistance fighters during the last days of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, who are reduced to fleeing via the sewer system and The Promised Land (1975). Based on a novel, this award winning film focuses on three friends - a Jew, a Pole and a German - who set up a factory business in Łodz at the end of the 19th century.
There are several other films of Jewish interest. The magical realist Holocaust drama, Happiness of the World (2016) - which is supported by UK Jewish Film - is set at the beginning of the Second World War in a Silesia guesthouse. Its residents include Róża, a beautiful Jewish woman and three men who are infatuated with her.
The ‘Undiscovered Masters of Polish Cinema’ strand offers audiences an opportunity to see two films made by Wanda Jakubowska (1907-1998), who was one of the first and most historically important Polish female directors. Her landmark, semi-autobiographical Holocaust feature, The Last Stage (1948) was partly shot on the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she had been a prisoner. The authenticity of the film had an influence on many Holocaust films that followed, including Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.
There is also a rare screening of Jakubowska’s psychological drama, Encounters In The Dark (1960), which again looks at the Holocaust, but from the perspective of Polish slave labourers made to work in a German man’s factory.