Janusz Zaorski’s Jubilee is no less and no more than a celebration of the Polish cinema at large. Few people embody it as fully as the director of The Mother of Kings (1982) and Soccer Poker (1988). The author of the most popular Polish film about soccer is a player himself and can play in different positions and knows exactly about the team spirit. Although he is first of all a versatile and accomplished director, Janusz Zaorski also co-created a radio comedy show called Kabarecik Reklamowy with his brother Andrzej, headed the Polish Federation of Film Societies in 1980s and was the art director of Zespół Filmowy “Dom”, a film studio, and served on the National Broadcasting Board in 1990s. As if that was not enough, he and his wife, Anna Osmólska-Mętrak, have been promoters and organizers of the Krzysztof Mętrak Competition for young film critics for many years and in 2014 he gave an extended interview to Stanisław Zawiśliński, which was made into a book entitled Jaja, serce, łeb. Apparently, on the Polish cultural pitch Janusz Zaorski can play for several players and not get short of breath.
The Adult Questions. Janusz Zaorski’s Jubilee series is a great opportunity to discover three early and less known films by this director and see his latest documentary drama Generations, in which the history of Poland intertwines with the history of the Polish cinema. Although reflective films set in the past remain one of Zaorski’s specialties (to name just the already mentioned The Mother of Kings, Sons and Comrades and Siberian Exile), those of his films which are shown at the Two Riversides Festival turn the attention to his talent for telling stories of everyday life verging on politics with great empathy. An intimate portrait of young people in Run Away Nearly, a satirical image of a rural community in Promotion and a synthesis of the dilemmas faced by the intelligentsia in Childish Questions—these 1970s and early 1980s films by Zaorski reflect the reality of those times but also transgress the bounds of time to deliver a message which is strikingly valid today.
One of the reasons why the cinema created by Janusz Zaorski remains ever fresh despite juggling genres, periods and topics is that he unwaveringly follows a single idea of attempting to depict a human with all of their complexities on the screen. His characters usually have minor or major flaws but are irresistibly compelling anyway; they get caught up in mundane existence but never stop dreaming about a brighter future. And above all, they are driven forward by some force, a demonic or noble one, which makes their on-screen struggles remarkably true to life. It is evident both in the video-clip paced Happy New York (1997) and in the thick drama of The Baritone (1984) with excellent acting by Zbigniew Zapasiewicz.
The blurb of the extended interview with Zaorski reads: “I can remember well what Stanisław Wohl would tell us at the Academy: ‘A director has to have three things: the balls, the heart and the brains.’ I agree, but I would change the order. The balls are about energy, mobility and power. The brains are important as it will do good if some intelligence appears in the end. But I put heart, which is sensitivity, first. This is what matters the most.” The entire body of Janusz Zaorski’s works is a proof of his sensitivity, but also of the fact that such sensitivity can unexpectedly turn into power and become truly contagious in the hands of a skillful director.
2016 Pokolenia|The Generations
2013 Syberiada polska|Siberian Exile
2005 Lekarz drzew|Tree Doctor
1997 Szczęśliwego Nowego Jorku|Happy New York
1988 Piłkarski poker|Soccer Poker
1985 Jezioro Bodeńskie|Sons and Comrades
1985 Baryton|The Baritone
1981 Dziecinne pytania|Childish Questions
1982 Matka Królów|The Mother of Kings
1977 Pokój z widokiem na morze|A Room with a View on the Sea
1972 Uciec jak najbliżej|Run Away Nearly