Kinoteka (2024) London Polish Film Festival 2024

February 15th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

The Kinoteka Polish Film Festival is back for a 22th edition running from 6 March until 28 March and celebrating the latest in Polish arthouse film and cult classics.

World-famous filmmakers: Agnieszka Holland, Małgorzata Szumowska & Michał Englert, and DK & Hugh Welchman, will join the festivities as well as renowned directors such Walerian Borowczyk and Krzysztof Kieślowski.


Kinoteka 2024 begins on 6 March at BFI Southbank with an Opening Gala screening of the critically acclaimed Green Border (Zielona granica, 2023) from director Agnieszka Holland (In Darkness, The Secret Garden) raising the profile on immigration in the form of a moving journey across Europe. After moving to the north east of Poland, psychologist Julia (Maja Ostaszewska) becomes an active part of a tragedy that takes place on the Polish-Belarusian border. This story interweaves similar events involving those trying to make their way to Europe to escape an uncertain future in their own countries.


Heading to the BFI IMAX on 28 March, the festival’s Closing Gala for 2024 will be an exciting celebration of film and music, where the audience will be treated to Polish box office smash-hit The Peasants (Chłopi, 2023) that makes stunning use of an oil painting animation technique, The Peasants is a visually thrilling rendering of Władysław Reymont’s Nobel Prize-winning tale.


Expect to discover the very latest in Polish films hot off the international festival circuit. Małgorzata Szumowska (Never Gonna Snow Again, Mug, Body) and Michał Englert (Never Gonna Snow Again, Infinite Storm). Woman Of (Kobieta z, 2023) is set against the landscape of the Polish transformation from communism to capitalism, spanning 45 years of the life of Aniela Wesoły (Małgorzata Hajewska) and her journey to find personal liberty as a trans woman.

Communist Poland also provides the backdrop for Saint (Święty, 2023), which is set during the final, turbulent days of the Polish People’s Republic and shows a nation grappling with its identity, torn between allegiance to Church and State. Mateusz Kościukiewicz (Mug, Bracia) stars as a rookie policeman investigating the theft of a priceless silver sculpture from Gniezno Cathedral in this thrilling mystery.

The multi-award winning Doppelganger (Doppelgänger. Sobowtór, 2023) from Jan Holoubek (Netflix’s The Mire, 25 Years of Innocence) is a stylish psychological thriller rooted in actual events of Cold War Poland starring Jakub Gierszał (Najlepszy), as a tale of espionage unfolds simultaneously on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Elsewhere in the programme, Klaudiusz Chrostowski’s Ultima Thule (2023) features another compelling lead performance from Jakub Gierszał as Bartek, a man struggling to make sense of his life, who leaves his family to travel to a remote Scottish island. This striking, minimalist feature debut won the Best Micro Budget Film Award at Gdynia Festival 2023.

Adapted from a novel by Jakub Małecki, Feast of Fire (Święto ognia, 2023) is a heartwarming film about happiness, ambition and secrets as two devoted sisters struggle with very different constraints imposed by their bodies.

Adrian Apanel’s Horror Story (2023) is a smart take on the often absurd rites of passage between adolescence and adulthood that expertly combines black comedy and horror tropes. Jakub Zając (Dawid i Elfy) plays a man who arrives in Warsaw ready to start his adult life in the world of finance but soon finds himself reeling from the brink of one disaster to another.

The Secret of Little Rose (Rózyczka 2, 2023) is the much anticipated sequel to Jan Kidawa-Blonski’s multi-award winning Rose (2010). Once again starring Polish acting greats Magdalena Boczarska (Ostatnia rodzina) and Robert Więckiewicz (In Darkness, Wałęsa: Man of Hope), the film tells the story of a career politician whose life is turned upside down following a terrorist attack which kills her husband.

Lastly, Paweł Maślona’s Scarborn (Kos, 2023) is an action-packed historical tale that won multiple prizes at Gdynia Film Festival 2023 including the Golden Lion, Press Award and Youth Jury Award. Based on real events, it follows the story of General Tadeusz “Kos” Kościuszko (Jacek Braciak) who returns to Poland in 1794 and plans to start an uprising against the Russian occupying forces but on his tail is a Russian cavalry captain (Robert Więckiewicz) who is determined to foil his plans.


The festival’s documentary strand this year consists of two eye-opening films that take viewers to war zones across the world and, through very different lenses, show how the conflicts affect those caught in the cross-fire. In the Rearview (Skąd dokąd, 2023) tells the stories of the ordinary Ukrainian people that director Maciek Hamela helped evacuate from the country following the Russian invasion.

Developed over seven years, Danger Zone (2023) is an unsettling documentary examining a dark side of tourism, where people choose to visit war zones on organised tours at great expense. Taking an observational approach, the film juxtaposes the experiences of these so-called ‘war zone tourists’ and a tour operator with the everyday lives of those who live and fight in countries such as Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria.


Three Polish auteurs are represented in the Cinema Classics strand, in a programme that spans 1940s and 1970s Polish film. Krzysztof Kieślowski’s breakthrough masterpiece Camera Buff (Amator, 1979), was written for then rising actor Jerzy Stuhr who plays a factory worker whose passion to capture the world on 8mm film, gradually takes over his life, with implications on his freedom.

The Story of Sin (Dzieje grzechu, 1975) is an intense, taboo-breaking work from cult director Walerian Borowczyk, that is based on a famous novel by Stefan Żeromski, who co-wrote the screenplay. Presented as a sumptuous melodrama, the film follows the fate of a young woman Ewa (Grażyna Długołęcka) who, after falling for the young impoverished lodger in her family home, ends up in a spiral of seduction and obsession.

And lastly from prolific filmmaker Michał Waszyński, Kinoteka is proud to screen The Great Way (Wielka droga, 1946), the first post-WW2 Polish feature film. Produced by the 2nd Polish Army Corps and shot largely at Cinecittà, it tells the story of a young soldier who is taken to a military hospital where a nurse pretends to be his fiancée, to support his recovery. Secretly reading his journal to understand his story, she learns of his experiences on the battlefield. While a fictionalised narrative, The Great Way uses documentary footage to show the real story of the Polish army led by General Anders, known for their mascot Wojtek the bear.


Venues: BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, Southbank Centre, Cine Lumiere, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Phoenix Cinema, Prince Charles Cinema, Rich Mix, Watermans

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