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Polish Film Festival in America

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The 14th annual Polish Film Festival in America, produced by the Society for Arts, continues Friday, November 15, through Saturday, November 30. Screenings are at the Society for Arts, 1112 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $7; passes, available for $40 (five screenings) and $80 (twelve screenings), are good for all programs. For more information call 773-486-9612. The schedule for November 15 through 21 follows; a complete schedule through November 30 is available on-line at www.chicagoreader.com.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 15

Short documentaries, program one

A pair of videos produced for Poland's Channel Two: Mariusz Malec's The Man Who Is Not, filmed from the perspective of a sniper in Chechnya, and Joanna Sanecka, Krzysztof Sakho, and Dennis Wojda's Poland: The Update (2001), in which 18 immigrants to Poland talk about their experiences. Also on the program: Pawel Lozinski's A Woman From Ukraine. All are in Polish with subtitles. 77 min. (7:00)

A Write-off and The Book of Complaints

Two documentaries produced for Poland's Channel Two. Jerzy Krysiak and Jerzy Morawski's A Write-off is about the businessmen-turned-murderers who inspired Krzysztof Krauze's 1999 feature The Debt. Andrzej Baranski's The Book of Complaints (2000), in Polish with subtitles, is about people working in state-owned retail operations in communist Poland. 72 min. Producer Jerzy Kapuscinski will attend the screening. (9:00)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 16

Short documentaries, program two

Made this year for Poland's Channel One, Lidia Duda's At Home, in Pietrasze is about a ten-year-old village boy, and Leszek Wosiewicz's Breaking the Silence is about deaf people who sing. Marcin Wrona's A Magnet Man (2001), produced by Silesian University, is a fact-based story about a father and son who discover they have mystical powers. From Bialystok television, Jerzy Kalina's From Plague and Hunger (2001) investigates alternative healers of people and animals. All are in Polish with subtitles. 77 min. (5:00)

A Lesson in Polish Cinema

Less a documentary than an illustrated lecture, this TV program features director Andrzej Wajda recalling the emergence of a Polish national cinema, starting in the late 1940s, when such veterans as Wanda Jakubowska (The Last Stop) and Aleksander Ford (Border Street) began to inspire a new generation of directors, and ending in 1960, when the secretary of the central committee lowered the boom on Wajda and his fellow upstarts. Wajda notes the Polish school's profound debt to the Italian neorealists, a point clearly illustrated by gritty black-and-white clips from such films as Jerzy Kawalerowicz's Celuloza (1953), Jan Rybkowski's Hours of Hope (1955), Tadeusz Konwicki's The Last Day of Summer (1958), and Wajda's own Ashes and Diamonds (1958). The director also clarifies the relative importance of the Lodz Film School, which censored its students' films before the party could even get a look at them, and the state's film production units, where he and his contemporaries actually learned their craft. Honored with a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1999, Wajda must have seemed the obvious choice to tell this story, but modesty or old age seems to get the better of him: despite some interesting anecdotes, his is a rather academic treatment of a dramatic chapter in world cinema. In Polish with subtitles. 72 min. (JJ) (7:00)

The Betrayed

This gruesome 1995 report from Chechnya, shot by British documentarian Clive Gordon (Children of Chernobyl) and Polish cinematographer Jacek Petrycki, begins with a delegation of Russian mothers arriving in the devastated Chechen town of Grozny to determine the fate of their sons, conscripted soldiers who've been reported missing in action. But the filmmakers are soon sidetracked by probable atrocities in Samashki, a settlement of 65,000 people that was heavily bombed in March '95 and cleaned out by Russian troops the following month. Gordon films the excavation of a mass grave--some of the corpses are covered in blood, indicating they were killed on the spot or buried alive--and the ranting of townspeople who charge the Russians with killing women and children. As it turns out, the Russian liaison officer isn't terribly committed to locating the missing conscripts, the unspoken irony being that they may have been responsible for some of the mayhem in Samashki. The film bears witness to a harsh landscape of decimated buildings and mutilated bodies, though the rock music on the sound track is fairly offensive, a bad hangover from American movies about Vietnam. In Russian with subtitles. 78 min. (JJ) Showing as part of a double feature with The Unforgiving (1993, 80 min.), Gordon and Petrycki's subtitled documentary about atrocities in Bosnia. Petrycki will attend the screening. (9:00)

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17

Give Us This Night

The festival's tribute to Jan Kiepura, a tenor with the Warsaw State Opera who enjoyed some success in European movie musicals, continues with this 1936 Hollywood feature about a melodious fisherman (Kiepura) who falls for the daughter (mezzo-soprano Gladys Swarthout) of a respected composer. Alexander Hall directed; the score is by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, then making a name for himself at Warner Brothers. 73 min. (1:00)

The Prince and The Miracle

Two subtitled documentaries on Polish Catholicism. Produced for Krakow television, Andrzej Baczynski and Tadeusz Szyma's The Prince (2000, 66 min.) profiles Adam Cardinal Sapieha (1867-1951), with commentary from Pope John Paul II and cardinals Franciszek Marcharski and Andrzej Maria Deskur. From Poland's Channel Two comes Henryk Jurecki and Ryszard Soltysik's The Miracle (24 min.), about a man in Olawa who believes the Blessed Virgin appeared in his garden. (3:00)

Piwnica and Wyspianski's Krakow

Two subtitled Polish TV documentaries. In Piwnica (2001, 58 min.) director Antoni Krauze looks at Piwnica pod Baranami, a popular cabaret in Krakow after World War II. In Wyspianski's Krakow (30 min.) directors Aleksandra Czernecka and Dariusz Pawelec consider the profound civic influence of painter, sculptor, architect, designer, and writer Stanislaw Wyspianski (1869-1970). (5:00)

The Valley and Shooters

This is the second of two programs honoring cinematographer Jacek Petrycki, whose resume includes dramatic films by Krzysztof Kieslowski (No End, The Amateur) and Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa) and more than a hundred documentaries. These two British features were directed by Dan Reed, and though one is documentary and the other dramatic, both are distinguished by their visual clarity and pungent sense of place. The Valley (1999, 70 min.) plunges into the religious and ethnic strife of the Balkans, as Serb forces invade the Drenica Valley in central Kosovo, hoping to crush the Muslim forces of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Reed cleanly traces the struggle from 1389, when the region fell to Islamic Turks, to 1989, when Serbia ended self-government in Kosovo and began persecuting ethnic Albanian Muslims, and the film is brutally honest in documenting both the Christians' atrocities and the Muslims' thirst for vengeance. Shooters (2000, 70 min.) was scripted by Reed but cast with nonactors from the Toxteth section of Liverpool, and though its plot may sound like a hundred other crime dramas, its low-key performances and street-level authenticity make it utterly convincing. John Wayland, Dezzy Baylis, and Ricky Rowe play a trio of dance-club bouncers who steal 40 kilos of crack from a dealer and wind up killing him; Wayland, whose foolishness is the proximate cause of the murder, compounds their problems by buying himself an expensive car and tipping their hand to the drug lord they've crossed. Both films are subtitled, the first because it's in Albanian and Serbo-Croatian, the second because of its impenetrable scouse accents. (JJ) Also on the program, Marcel Losinski's subtitled 12-minute short 89 MM From Europe (1993). (7:00)

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18

Himilsbach: Truths, Lies, Black Holes and Mantu...a Free Man

Two interrelated documentaries about filmmaking. In the unsubtitled Himilsbach: Truths, Lies, Black Holes, Stanislaw Manturzewski and Malgorzata Lupina create a partly fictionalized story about the autobiographical films of Jan Himilsbach. Rafal Glinski uses their documentary as the hook for his profile of Manturzewski, Mantu...a Free Man, in Polish with subtitles. 83 min. (7:00)

Real Cops

Episodes one through four of the reality series directed by Krzysztof Lang for Poland's Channel One. The festival literature insists that "Everything is real. The death is real, the blood is real, and the war with soccer fans is real." None of the episodes is subtitled. 100 min. (9:00)

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19

Short documentaries, program three

Three unsubtitled documentaries about troubled youth, produced for Poland's Channel Two: Beata Januchta's Kids on the Block (2001), Athena Sawidis-Gnilanska's Bullying, and Jozef Kamil Brzostowski's Unwanted Children. 76 min. (7:00)

Real Cops

Episodes five through eight of the TV series (see listing for Monday, November 18). 100 min. (9:00)

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20

The Athlete and Evolution

Two subtitled documentaries: in Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz's The Athlete a competitive 13-year-old girl talks about being sexually harassed by her coach and forced to take steroids, and in Evolution (2001) Borys Lankosz visits a house in a national park that provides shelter for 70 mentally and physically disabled old men. 88 min. (7:00)

Real Cops

Episodes nine through twelve of the TV series (see listing for Monday, November 18). 100 min. (9:00)

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21

Short documentaries, program four

Piotr Morawski's Secret Tapes of the Security Police was assembled from a box of footage shot by the Polish secret police between 1966 and '85, documenting various street protests and surveillance methods. Jaroslaw Jabrzyk's Letters is about historians for the Institute of National Memory who uncovered a file of unsent letters by men facing execution squads. And Konrad Szolajski's Profession: Deputy is a portrait of a young parliamentarian. All are in Polish with subtitles. 78 min. (7:00)

Green Card

Directors Jaroslaw Sypniewski and Slawomir Grunberg will attend this screening of the first four episodes from their documentary series about immigration. None of the episodes is subtitled. 100 min. (7:00)

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