My picks for 19th Annual Polish Film Festival (Oct. 17-25, 2018)

by Tom Nguyen

October is always teeming with great film festivals in Los Angeles! It’s as if all the cinephiles, like myself, suddenly needed a break from an overstimulating summer of competing activities, and cocoon ourselves inside a myriad of film screenings this month as a Fall transition. Next up: 19th Annual Polish Film Festival, which opened Wednesday, October 17, 2018, at Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, with a gala screening of Squadron 303, based on the true history of Polish pilots who shot down three times more Luftwaffe planes during the Battle of Britain than other Allied pilots.

The film festival continues through Thursday, October 25, at two primary venues: Laemmle Noho 7 Theatre in North Hollywood and Laemmle’s Monica Film Center in Santa Monica. There will also be free screenings at CSU Northridge and USC campuses and Hellada Gallery in Long Beach. Here are my picks (in order of appearance at the festival):

BIRDS ARE SINGING IN KIGALI (Ptaki spiewaja w Kigali)
2017, 113 min.
Thursday, October 18, 2018, 9pm, Laemmle’s Monica Film Center
Friday, October 19, 2018, 7:30pm, The Armer Theater, Manzanita Hall, CSUN Cinematheque
In 1994 Rwanda, a Polish woman ornithologist saves a Tutsi girl from certain death. After a few years they both revisit Africa on an emotional journey full of painful memories.

BEHIND BARS ARE TREES OF GREEN (Za krata sa zielone drzewa)
2018, 47 min. and 44 sec.
Friday, October 19, 2018, 1:45pm, USC Max Kade Institute
The action takes place in Poland and in the German women’s concentration camp of Ravensbrück. Most of the scenes were created in places where the presented events really took place. Grażyna Chrostowska was a Polish poet and an activist of the underground resistance movement during the Second World War. Arrested in 1941, she is taken to the Lublin prison in the Castle, and then to the German concentration camp in Ravensbrück. She was only 19 years old. There, together with her fellow prisoners, she experiences the gehenna of the Nazi terror. At the same time, fleeing into the world of art and writing poems, she builds her own accelerated maturity. The film is a touching story about the natural need for human freedom, about the strength of youth and the love of beauty, which gives strength for further life in front of the tragedy of the war.

2017, 74 min.
Saturday, October 20, 2018, 3pm
Laemmle’s NoHo 7 Theatre
An intimate portrait of the world s most outstanding rhythmic gymnast Margarita Mamun, the main representative of  the  prestigious  Russian  National  Team.  The  film  presents  a groundbreaking  year  in  her  life,  from  the  2015 World  Championships  to  the  2016 Olympic Games. The gymnast has the chance of a lifetime to become an Olympic champion, competing with the best friend from her club, Yana Kudryavtseva.

I AM A KILLER (Jestem morderca)
2016, 107 min.
Saturday, October 20, 2018, 9pm, Laemmle’s NoHo 7 Theatre
Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 7pm, Laemmle’s Monica Film Center
A psychological thriller inspired by actual events from the early ‘70s. After an unsuccessful investigation so far, a young militia officer becomes the leader of an investigation group which is to capture a serial killer of women. They called him the “Zaglebie vampire.” He murdered fourteen women in cold blood in Silesia from 1964 to 1970, and attempted to murder another seven. Yet it’s still unclear whether he really committed those monstrous crimes. The movie tells the story of a detective from Civic Militia. His superiors manipulate him because they want to catch and sentence the alleged criminal for political reasons. I’M A KILLER is not only a thriller, but also a moral dilemma that presents Polish social reality from before the fall of communism.

2017, 42 min.
Sunday, October 21, 2018, 1pm, Laemmle’s Monica Film Center
The Aral Sea in Central Asia was once one of the four biggest lakes in the world. Today, it has largely disappeared. The lake was drained as a result of various irrigation projects initiated by the former Soviet Union. In the beautifully shot Zhalanash, we only see the remains of a once flourishing area. Fishing boats erode in the dusty desert, a lonely camel wanders an empty street, and an old woman quietly stares at her birthday cake. “I wish I would die,” she tells her equally fragile friend. Meanwhile, a man drives his truck to sandy villages to deliver water to the remaining residents, another herds his horses by motorcycle, and two men complain about the increasing temperatures that have come with the dryness. It’s as if life itself is also drying up. The imposing images emphasize the extent of the emptiness, giving new meaning to the word “bleak.”

2018, 56 min.
Sunday, October 21, 2018, 3pm & 5pm, Laemmle’s Monica Film Center
The documentary FOOTSTEPS IN THE SNOW tells the story of the Michniewicz family and childhood memories, but most of all it’s the story–passed on from generation to generation–of the family’s escape from Siberia during the Second World War. Roma, as a small baby, together with her mother, grandfather and great-grandmother, were all forcibly relocated by the Soviets to Siberia from their family estate in Soviet-occupied Poland. Romuald, Roma’s father, was an officer in the Polish forces and later held in Moscow as a political prisoner of the NKWD, Soviet secret police. After amnesty, he joined the Polish Army under General Anders, tracked down his family against all odds, and orchestrated their very daring and dramatic escape from Siberia.

WILD ROSES (Dzikie roze)
2017, 89 min.
Sunday, October 21, 2018, 7pm, Laemmle’s Monica Film Center
Ewa returns to her village after a hospital stay. She works on a plantation that grows wild roses. While Ewa was away her mother has been taking care of her children Marysia and Jas. Ewa’s husband Andrzej also returns home after working for months in Norway. The time apart has created distance between them.

STRAWBERRY DAYS (Truskawkowe dni)
2016, 97 min.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 9pm, Laemmle’s NoHo 7 Theatre
A love story of the son of a Polish guest worker and the daughter of a Swedish farmer. Set in the strawberry fields of the Swedish south, it depicts a world full of divergence and prejudice.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN NOVEMBER (Pewnego razu w listopadzie)
2017, 92 min.
Thursday, October 25, 2018, 7pm, Laemmle’s Monica Film Center
The film tells the story of a mother and son who lose their flat in Warsaw after being evicted in 2013. The story is played out against the background of real events, including a large-scale nationalist march and riot. The film culminates in the protagonists witnessing a brutal attempt to burn down the squat with its residents inside by thugs who’ve broken away from the Independence March on November 11, 2013. The scenes include authentic documentary footage from the attack and the march, and many are actually shot against the real background of the excited crowds.

19th Annual Polish Film Festival
October 17-25, 2018

Tickets at Noho 7, Monica Film Center: $14.00, Seniors: $10.00, Matinee: $10.00
Free admission to screenings of Documentary, Shorts and Animation Programs
Free admission to all screenings for students with valid High School and College ID

Weekday double feature: $20.00, Seniors: $14.00, Discount Ticket Booklets: 5 different films-$45.00, 10 different films -$80.00, 15 different films-$110.00; Group Tickets: 10 tickets for the same film-$95.00, 15 tickets for the same film- $135.00Pass to all screenings: $140.00 (Pass holder needs to be present 15 min. before the screening time). For  Passes, Ticket Booklets and Group Tickets call: 818/982-8827 or write to [email protected]

Buy tickets on-line:
NoHo 7:
Monica Film Center:

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