Slavic and Eurasian Studies

Agnieszka Holland Comes to the Austin Polish Film Festival and UT

Mon, December 16, 2019
Agnieszka Holland Comes to the Austin Polish Film Festival and UT

This year, the Austin Polish Film Festival (APFF) had a phenomenal line up of films and filmmakers, spearheaded by world-renowned, award-winning filmmaker Agnieszka Holland. Holland was in attendance for the opening reception on November 1, which hosted a screening of her film, Mr. Jones, followed by a Q&A with the director, herself. The film touched on both of the festival themes this year: “Women’s perspective” (or, as proclaimed by festival organizer Joanna Gutt-Lehr at the opening, „kobiety górą!”) and “Responsibility of media in shaping reality.” The film Mr. Jones tells the story of UK journalist Gareth Jones, who in 1933 travels to the Soviet Union hoping to interview Stalin, and uncovers the Ukrainian genocide (known regionally as Holodomor) after an unofficial visit to provincial Ukraine. During the Q&A, audience members sincerely thanked Holland for bringing this historically significant event to the screen and asked questions about her portrayal of it on the big screen.

Earlier that week, UT was fortunate to have Holland in residence for a master class with Radio-Television-Film production students from the Moody College of Communication, followed by a lunch sponsored by the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, with RTF and CREEES faculty, as well as students, staff, alumni and APFF festival organizer. CREEES MA alumnus Patrick Thomas was able to discuss his Master’s thesis on Holland’s work with the director herself, and UT undergrad James Mismash, who is receiving CREEES funding for an internship in Poland this summer, took her on a tour of the State Capitol, where he currently works, for some authentic Texas sightseeing. 


Holland is known for her insightful body of work, including such films as Europa, Europa, which follows the true story of a Jewish teenager during the Holocaust, a film adaptation of Secret Garden, and for her television accomplishments such as Treme, The Wire and House of Cards. The Austin Film Society helped generate interest in the program, screening a retrospective of Agnieszka Holland’s films leading up to the festival. 

Holland’s wasn’t the only voice showcased at this year’s festival. APFF included many important views in contemporary Polish cinema. Another highlight of the festival was director Magdalena Łazarkiewicz, who won the Grand Prix at the 1986 Creteil International Women’s Film Festival for her film By Touch (Przez dotyk) and special Jury Prize at the 1992 Gdynia Polish Film Festival for Departure (Odjazd). At APFF, Łazarkiewicz presented her film Back Home (Powrót), a story about the return of a trafficked teenager to her conservative hometown and the stigma attached to her experience. Łazarkiewicz was also in attendance for the screening of her film and hosted an insightful Q&A after the screening.

Other filmmakers whose works were highlighted included Ewa Bukowska (53 Wars), Adrian Panek (Werewolf), Jacek Borcuch (Dolce Fine Giomata), and Tomasz Szafranski, whose film Rock N Roll Eddie was hailed as the first Polish film in years to project children and teenagers with such originality.

CREEES is a proud sponsor of the Austin Polish Film Festival, which has regularly donated proceeds to the Polish Studies Endowment at UT, established in 2012 by the Austin Polish Society.

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