The history of Polish animation reaches back to the 1920s. Stefan and Franciszka Themersons, Włodzimierz Kowańka, and Władysław Starewicz are nowadays considered to be precursors of the Polish animated film. The first animation studios were launched after World War II. Initially, they were controlled by the national enterprise Film Polski. Later on, animation departments were created at the Lodz Feature Film Studio. This arrangement prevailed until independent studios’ establishment in 1956. However, what about the distribution of animation throughout Poland? Were there film festivals dedicated exclusively to animated films? When did they appear? In this post, I will offer a brief history of Polish animation festivals up to 2005, focusing on the main events organized in the country.
The Polish National Short Film Festival, today known as the Krakow Film Festival, was organized for the first time in 1961. In 1964, it gained the status of an international festival. The National Short Film Festival dedicated one of its categories to animated films. The first films honored with Wawel Dragons in the animation category were Nowy Janko Muzykant (New Janko Musician, dir. Jan Lenica, 1961), Mały Western(Little Western, dir. Witold Giersz, 1960) and Przygoda w paski (An adventure in stripes, dir. Alina Maliszewska-Kruk, 1960). However, as a consequence of some changes occurred in 1964, the Krakow Film Festival soon no longer had a section devoted only to animation. Animated films could still be entered, but they would compete with documentaries and feature films in the “Polish Competition” and the “International Short Film Competition”.
However, to identify the first event devoted to animation we have to go back in time to 1957, when the film and television magazine EKRAN organized the First Animated Film Revision. Among its winners were, for example, Dwie Dorotki (Two Dorothies, dir. Zenon Wasilewski, 1956), Nowy domek (New home, dir. Teresa Badzian, 1956) and Ostrożność (Caution, dir. Jerzy Kotowski, 1957). Unfortunately, the history of this initiative ends with the information about the awarded films, which can be found in the archives of the Studio of Small Film Forms Se-Ma-For in Lodz. It is difficult to say if the review was continued, but it is undeniable that it was probably the first event celebrating animation in Poland.
Another Polish film festival that should be mentioned is the International Young Audience Film Festival “Ale Kino!” held in Poznan, which began in 1963 as the “Revision of Animated and Children’s Films”. It was organized under this heading every year until 1967. After a year-long break, it returned in 1969 as the National Film Festival for Children and Teenagers. Since the 1960s, it has promoted Polish animated films and, for many years, apart from the Krakow Film Festival, it has been the only event focused on animation in the country.
In 1975 another prize for animated films was introduced: the Zenon Wasilewski Award, which was given in Lodz. During its first edition the prize went to Reksio medalista (Reksio medalist, dir. Marian Chlorek, 1974) and O królu Popielu (Story about King Popiel, dir. Daniel Szczechura, 1974). The Zenon Wasilewski Award is a tribute to the pioneers of puppet animation from Lodz. As the archives of Se-Ma-For suggest, the competition was organized in the form of a biennale. The last sources documenting the award are from 1989. In 1990 and 1991, there were attempts to raise funds to organize the 10th edition of the competition. Unfortunately, this particular edition was probably not granted, which is why the Zenon Wasilewski award was given only 9 times.
Since these first film festivals of the 1960s and 1970s, it took many years for new cultural events focused on animated films to emerge. In the 1990s, there were new initiatives that continued the tradition of promoting this audiovisual form. From 1993 to 2016, the National Festival of Original Animated Films OFAFA, which was devoted exclusively to Polish original animated films, was held in Krakow. In 1994, Krakow also hosted the first edition of the International Film Festival Etiuda&Anima, which provides space for short-form animations in their program. The festival promotes the work of students of film and art schools, professionals, and independent authors from all around the world. The event presents films that are not in regular distribution.
From the above, it emerges how until 2005, there was little room for animation on the festival map of Poland. After 2005, however, the situation has changed due to the financial support from the Polish Film Institute, and these days there are a number of festivals which include animated films in their competitions or are dedicated to this audiovisual form.
Anonymous (1975) Co nowego. In: Film, n. 50.
Giżycki, Marcin (2012). Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Animation Festivals So Different, So Appealing?. In: Coming Soon to A Festival Near You: Programming Film Festivals, ed. J. Ruoff, St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies.
Jajko, Krzysztof (2017). W stronę festiwalu bez granic. Modele rozpowszechniania polskiego filmu animowanego w XXI wieku. In: Polska animacja w XXI wieku, eds. M. Kozubek and T. Szczepański, Łódź: Wydawnictwo PWSFTviT.
Kossakowski, Andrzej (1977). Polski film animowany 1947-1974. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich.
Pietraszko, Anna; Wittels, Karol (2018). Festiwale Filmowe w Polsce. Raport, http://www.obserwatorium.org.pl/2018/01/31/raport-z-badania-festiwali-filmowych-w-polsce/ [Accessed April 22, 2021]
Oliwia Nadarzycka is an MA student in Film Studies at University of Lodz. She is enthusiast of documentary and animated cinema. She is also President of the Film Studies Scientific Society, publicist at Society’s official website, supervisor and instructor of workshops on the construction of optical toys. In 2019, she has been a journalist of the Ińskie Point editorial team during the 46th Ińsko Film Summer, and a member of the student jury of the 9th edition of the StopTrik International Animation Festival in Łódź. In 2020, she has also been a member of the student jury of the 2nd edition of the Rising of Lusitania AnimaDoc Festival. She published an interview with Piotr Kardas about O!PLA Polish Animation Festival during the pandemic in “Kalejdoskop” magazine (2020).