Polish cinema has always had a special place in the hearts of film fans. The films are wildly different from Hollywood blockbusters and have gained a favorable reputation among movie buffs and at film festivals worldwide. In the mid-1950s, it established itself as one of the world’s most innovative and influential national cinemas.
However, the Polish film industry is hoping to gain a wider audience for its back catalog, and a new project has been launched. A website called 35mm online is making thousands of films available to watch online for free. The collection includes cult films such as Man of Marble and Man of Iron by Andrzej Wajda and The Three Colors trilogy of Krzysztof Kieślowski.
The initiative has come about due to a collaboration between the Polish Film Institute and the production studio WFDiF. The studio is one of Poland’s oldest and most renowned filmmakers. The project, cofounded by the Polish Culture Ministry and the EU, has seen the digital reconstruction and digitization of feature films, documentaries, and animations. The aim is to preserve Polish film heritage for future generations.
All the films have English subtitles, and the organizers hope this will help them attract a wider audience. In addition to the 40 million people living in Poland, there is a Polish diaspora around the world of another 20 million people, meaning that there is an enormous potential audience. The team behind the project has ensured that the archive can be accessed by viewers at cinemas, on TV, and via the internet and mobile phones – both android and iPhone.
Cinema is part of Poland’s postwar history. It was initially an arm of the communist state. Financially nurtured by the government but also intensively policed and censored. The filmmakers would subversively criticize the authorities while appearing to toe the party line. The veteran director Krzysztof Zanussi once said that because of incompetence and corruption on behalf of the state, essential goods were in short supply. Due to this, people turned to immaterial things like film, art, and human solidarity. The film industry’s success is a combination of great talent and the founding of places like the famous film school in Lodz. After the overthrow of the communist government, the film industry continued to be subsidized but became a producer-led industry.
Past success creates current-day prosperity
That heritage of filmmaking and creative and technical excellence continues to drive one of Poland’s most successful exports to this day. Rather than just making passive films, Poland’s animators, storytellers, cinemaphotographers, and motion capture experts have become world leaders in video game production. As a result, Poland is the fourth largest exporter of video games in the world, and product of Polish origin accounts for 6.5% of global game sales.
The leading game studio is CD Projekt Red. They launched The Witcher game in 2007, and 40 million units have sold worldwide. It is based on a series of fantasy novels by the Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski.
In a perfect feedback loop where culture and technology support and grow each other, CD Projekt Red is now the driving force behind the leading art festival in Lodz called Promised Land. The event brings together creatives and producers working in film, gaming, and animation. The same technology is also used for video slot games which are popular in online casinos in Poland. There will be delegates from the likes of Disney, Pixar Animation, MachineGames, and Capcom. The representatives are keen to learn from the professionals at the top of their game. There are workshops, lectures, and opportunities to meet some of the biggest artist names in the industry, including 3D animators, storytellers, experts in motion capture, art directors, and fine artists.
35mm online aims to preserve Polish film heritage, keep it for future generations, and attract new audiences around the world. Meanwhile, Promised Land keeps an eye on the future and brings Hollywood to central Europe.