Looking Back at 2016 Polish Film Festival, LA, a conversation with Vladek Juszkiewicz, Festival’s Director


To coordinate and pull together an international film festival, is no easy task. It takes diligence, a firm point of view of how things should unfold, and above all, it requires you to absolutely love the films your presenting to the community. With long white hair and a whistful smile, Vladek Juszkiewicz is just that kind of man.

Vladek Juszkiewicz 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, going on to serve as the 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, Portugal, Thailand, Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Philippines and United States; where he had the opportunity to visit the White House.
When Vladek moved to Warsaw he became the manager of the Polish international star singer Maryla Rodowicz. Also, while in Warsaw, Vladek was responsible for the students’ international cultural exchange at the Headquarter of the Polish Student Association.
After immigrating to the United States he was introduced to Paul Leder, a producer, writer and director. Over the course of their friendship, Vladek worked on 11 films with the late Mr. Leder. A full list of Vladek’s credits can be found at IMDb.com.

In 1999, he founded the Polish Film Festival Los Angeles and is serving as the Festival’s Director.
Vladek has Served on the juries of the Los Angeles Hungarian Film Festival, the Los Angeles South East European Film Festival and New York Polish Film Festival. Since then, 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. In 2009 Vladek was honored with The PoleStar Award. Following that, in 2016, Festival Filmat in Poland awarded him with TURYSTA 2016 for praising Polish values in the world.

Bijan Tehrani: Please tell us about the opening night, it turned to be more interesting and entertaining than years before, how did you achieve this?
Vladek Juszkiewicz: The Opening Gala of the Festival has its own flavor. The outline was like every year–we started with the red carpet and a reception. The difference was only one thing, we served more pierogi – 2000 this year  We have been thinking about entertainment for a long time. But there were always problems with the equipment on stage. This year was different. We had a vocal a Capella group MONK from Poland. They need only microphones. With the help of Irene Ujda we had Wessex Consort who recreate 16th century European music; they also needed only mics. The HB Barnum LIFE Choir uses those mics too, so we had good entertainment this year very appreciated by the audience.
BT: Running a festival dedicated to the cinema of a certain country is very challenging and in most cases runs no more than 4 days, how have you managed to run this festival for nine days and with interesting contents?
VJ:  The Polish film industry is in a good condition. Through the Polish Film Institute the Polish government supports filmmakers financially. In 2015 they supported 27 film.  Annually there are about 50 films made in Poland and those are only features. You have to add to this documentaries, short films and animations. If you also add to this films made outside of Poland by Polish filmmakers, with Polish talent or Polish subject, there is no problem to put together a program with 81 films and run for 9 days in six locations: Laemmle’s NoHo7, Monica Film Center, Music Hall, USC, CSUN and Regency South Coast Village Theatre. Main language in those films is Polish, but we also screened films in English, French, Swedish, German. Japanese and Mandarin
BT:  How was the audience’s reaction to the2016 festival?
VJ:  You have to direct this question to the audience, but from what I heard and from e-mails sent to me, they liked the program presented at the Festival. They enjoyed the free admission to documentaries, short films and animations and free admission to all screenings for students with valid High School and College ID. They stay for Q & A with our guests; we had 48 filmmakers. They were saying that every year the program is better and that there was a very varied choice this year satisfying different tastes.
Here what I get from Maria Elena de las Carreras: “Thank you again for another terrific edition of the Polish Film Festival last month.
The CSUN students that attended the screening of ‘Generations’ and the Q&A with Janusz Zaorski learned a great deal about filmmaking and history”.
BT: Has the Polish Film Festival LA been successful in attracting the attention of the LA film community and industry to Polish cinema?
VJ:  The LA film community was very well represented. We had competition in five categories.  A group of 19 LA filmmakers judged the films. Every year we have new jurors.  It is very interesting to hear their opinions about the films they watch. The industry is a different subject. They do not like foreign films. They do not like films made for much less money with good quality.
BT: Please tell us about the guests of the Festival.
VJ:  As I mentioned we had 48 guests:
Actors:  Alicja Bachleda, Marta Nieradkiewicz, Agnieszka Zulewska, Carsten Strauch, Dawid Ogrodnik, Joel Pargman, Aygul Malsutova, Julia Silverman, Lech Lotocki, Beata Pozniak
Directors: Daria Woszek, Monika Majorek, Filip Hillesland, Alek Pietrzak, Mitja Okorn, Joshua Crone, Marcin Bortkiewicz, Damian Kocur, Joanna Krawczyk, Alicja Jasina, Paul Kowalski, Janek Ambros, Jerzy Zielinski, Jan Jakub Kolski, Wojciech Fry-Lewis, Karolina Mikolajczak, Marek Tomasz Pawlowski, Milosz Sakowski, David Gerson, Piotr J. Lewandowski, Adi Spektor, Kinga Debska, Cellin Gluck, Janusz Zaorski
Composers: Andrzej Warzocha, Bartek Gliniak, Elzbieta Sikora, Paul Bieda, Aaron Gilmartin
Cinematographers : Slawomir Idziak, Scott Baker, John Fuentes
Producers: Malgorzata Walczak, Zbigniew Domagalski, Lukasz Bedkowski, Noan Ribeiro
Production Designer: Danoela Medeiros
Writer: Martin Horvat
BT: How many awards did the Festival have this year and who were the award winners?
VJ:  We had awards in 9 categories and here are the awardees:
Piotr Lazarkiewicz Award for Young Talent:  MARTA NIERADKIEWICZ, AGNIESZKA ZULEWSKA
Adam Bratcher Music Debut Award: TOMASZ SLESICKI
Bridging the Borders Award for a Short Film: GRANDMA’S DAY (Dzien babci) by MILOSZ SAKOWSKI
Cinema Without Borders Special Jury Award for a Short Film: WHAT I WANT (To, czego chce) by DAMIAN KOCUR
The Hollywood Eagle Animation Award: ONCE UPON A LINE by ALICJA JASINA
The Hollywood Eagle Documentary Award: THE TOUCH OF AN ANGEL (Dotkniecie aniola) by MAREK T. PAWLOWSKI
The Hollywood Eagle Award:  WALPURGIS NIGHT (Noc Walpurgi) by MARCIN BORTKIEWICZ
Friends of Festival Award: Ronny Coleman, Tim Halloran , Katarzyna Smiechowicz, Bijan Tehrani, Irene Ujda
BT:  Please tell us about your sponsors.
VJ:  This year our Festival was under the auspices of the First Lady of Poland Madam Agata Kornhauser-Duda. Our Festival could not be possible without the support of corporate or individual sponsors. The main sponsors are the Polish Film Institute, Senate of Poland, National Audiovisual Institute, POLAM Federal Credit Union, Polish Filmmakers Association, Department of Cultural Affairs City of Los Angeles. Polish Consulate of LA, ELMA, Polish Center of LA, FPCA, Otto Nemenz, Shakespeare Vodka, Modjeska Cultural Club and individuals: Rose Marie & Andrew Dobrzynski, Elzbieta Szoka, Irene Ujda, Maciek Kolodziejczak and many more.
BT: What are your plans for the future of the Festival?
VJ: We are already working on the next year’s 18th edition of our Festival. The dates are October 18 – 26, 2017. We are already selecting films and guests. For sure next year will be outstanding and memorable for our audience!


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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