Vladek Juszkiewicz talks about Polish Film Festival, Los Angeles


2011 marks the 12th year of Polish Film Festival, LA, a great and amazing film festival carried on Vladek uszkiewicz shoulders. Polish Film Festival from the first year has turned to be a very important event in calendar of film fans and film critics. Without any doubts, Polish Film Festival, LA, shows more film than any otherlocal film festival dedicated to cinema of a country. It has an award ceremony and runs for nine days, matching length of major international film festivals.

Vladek director of the Polish film Festival, LA was born in Glogow, Poland. He graduated from the Szczecin Technical University with a degree in Engineering. While attending the University he became a member of The Szczecin Technical University Choir, serving as a President and manager of the group. His travels with the choir took him to Cuba, Canada, India, France, England, Ireland, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Thailand, Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, The Philippines and United States where he visited the White House.

When he moved to Warsaw he became the manager of the Polish international star singer Maryla Rodowicz.
After immigrating to the United States he was introduced to producer, writer and director Paul Leder. He worked on 11 films with the late Mr. Leder. In 1999 he founded the Polish Film Festival Los Angeles and is serving as the Festival’s Director.
In 2007 the President of Poland awarded him with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for promoting Polish culture abroad. The City of Glogow has awarded him the title of Honorary Citizen of Glogow. Vladek is Execxutive Director of Polish American Film Society

Bijan Tehrani:   You have hanged the dates of your festival in order to accomodate other film festivals that had a conflict of time with your festival a few times and now it starts on October 11, please tell us about this matter
Vladek Juszkiewicz:   Yes, as you remember last year we ran the regular festivals and when we observed what was going on we saw that there were so many festivals going on at this specific time so we decided to find another spot in the busy Los Angeles schedule of international film festivals. This year the festival will run from Oct 11th through the 20th and this will be the new dates for the future.

BT:   What do you expect to see at the festival and what will be happening on the opening days etc
VJ:   The festival has the same lineup as before so we will be showing a variety of feature films and short films and animation and documentaries, so together we have over 60 films and we start at the Egyptian theatre on the 11th and the presentation of the awards because we know before the festival starts which films will be awarded and we announce them on opening night. I can tell you that the feature category, the judges chose “The Mole” (Kret) by Rafael Lewandowski. In the documentary they chose “Downtown” by Piotr Sliwowski & Marta Dziko, which is a documentary about children with Down syndrome. With animation they chose a film called “Path of Hate” by Damian Nenow, and this is the second time he is winning an award in animation. As you can remember we started presenting the Pola Negri Award, which is an award for an American actor or filmmaker who works with a Polish filmmaker or portrays a Polish character and this year we are presenting the award to Jon Voight for portraying John Paul II. Last year the award was accepted by Ed Harris for his collaboration with Agnieszka Holland. So this is the opening and of course we are always screening a film on the opening night and this year we are screening a film called “Black Thursday” (Czarny czwartek) by Anthony Krauser which is a film of what happened in Poland in Gdynia in the December of 1970. If you watch the film it is almost like a documentary.

BT:   Will there be guest filmmakers coming to the festival this year?
VJ:   Yes we have a few guests who are coming to the festival and they are all attached to certain films. For “Joanna” by Feliks Falk we have Urszula Grabowska who won Best Actress Award at the Moscow International Film Festival this year, and to join her will be the composer Bartlomiej Gliniak. For the “The Mole” we will have the actor Marian Dziedziel who won the Supporting Actor Award at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia and for “The Mole” we have the producer  Marcin Wierzchoslawski. For the movie “Venice” (Wenecja), we will have the main character Marcin Waleski who won at Gdynia Polish Film Festival for award for best acting debut.  This year he was working on two films, “September Eleven 1683” where he portray son of King John Sobieski and “Closer to the Moon” where he play son of character play by Vera Farmiga. He will receive Piotr Lazarkiewicz Award for young talent, after the screening of Venice. For the Gala Opening of “Black Thursday” we will have the actress Marta Honzatko. For “Essential Killing” by Jerzy Skolimowski we will have the composer Pawel Mykietyn.  At the Museum of Tolerance we will screen two documentary with both directors present: “8 Stories, That Haven’s Changed the World” (8 histiri, ktore nie zmienily swiata) by Ivo Krankowski and “Shtetls” (Swietokrzyskie sztetle) by Pawel Gula. This year we are collaborating with certain organizations, depending on the subject of the film; for instance on Wednesday we are screening a film called “Beautiful People” which is a documentary about Irish music in New York where we collaborate with Los Angeles Irish Film Festival, and then we have a documentary about Arabian Horses called “Path to Glory” by Jen Miller & Sophie Pegrum, where we collaborate with The Los Angeles Equestrian Center and The Arabian Horse Association of the San Fernando Valley and the directors will be present. For the documentary about Down Syndrome called “Downtown” we are collaborating with Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles and South Bay Down Syndrome Association.

There is a film that deals with Jewish subjects and we will be collaborating with UCLA Hillel center and of course the LA Jewish Film Festival. We have a documentary about Polish prison which we are screening in collaboration with Amity Foundation.  We will be going to California State University Northridge with the screening of “Essential Killing”. And we will be going to the Village of Sherman Oaks where we will be showing two documentaries and tow features for people who live there, so these are two new things this year in that we are going out to people.

BT:   Has a film been selected for the Academy Awards selection?
VJ:   Unfortunately not, the film “In Darkness” by Agieszka Holland; the American distributor did not allow us to screen the film.

BT:   How can the audiences get a chance to come to the festival?
VJ:   You can buy a ticket online and join us for the screenings. We have students for example to see the lineup for animations, so the different way to attract people and bring people. Another thing for this year is that, it is the 100 anniversary of Marie Sklodowsa- Curie as the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics. We will screen “Madame Curie” by Mervyn Leroy (1943) which was nominated for 7 academy awards. This is the year of the 100 year anniversary of the birth of Czeslaw Milosz, who was the Nobel prize winner for poetry. We will screen a film with his screenplay “Valley of the Issa” (Doliona Issy) by Tadeusz Konwicki.

*Polish Film festival have several sponsores and supporters, notale among them are: PISF – Polish Film Institute, POLAM Federal Credit Union, Consulate General of Poland in Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs City of Los Angeles, E.L.M.A. (European Languages and Movies in America), International Documentary Association and Cinema Without Borders.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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