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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Polish Film Fest takes a punch at the far right

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A photo from Polish Women With Dyed Red Hair. Jeremiah Overman

Polish Film Fest takes a punch at the far right

With 10 contemporary documentaries scheduled to screen at Meta House over two days, the second Polish Film Festival rolling out tonight and Saturday is more than a feast of film – it is a statement against right-wing politics in Poland, while also a celebration of women’s role in cinema.

Co-organiser Izabela Klimowicz hopes that the film festival will give viewers a better insight into the lives and culture of the Polish people. “For so many people it’s just a strange country they know nothing about . . . We are often the first point where they hear about [Poland].”

According to Klimowicz, the idea for the festival first came about two years ago, when the Polish expatriate community in Phnom Penh was small enough to fit everyone on the rooftop of an apartment during a New Year’s Eve gathering. The group, mostly film enthusiasts, then decided to curate a collection of Polish films and share them with the community at large. With the support of the Embassy of Poland in Bangkok, the first edition of the film festival was held in 2015.

But the Polish Embassy has not been as forthcoming with financial support this time around. Officially, the organisers were informed that the embassy did not have enough funding for the event. Klimowicz, however, thinks otherwise.

She chalks it up to the conservative views of the Polish government, which she thinks has an issue with the programming for the festival. While most of the films to be screened are not very controversial in nature, one of the movies, Call Me Marianna, explores issues surrounding gender reassignment surgery in Poland. Another short animation, titled Pussy, is about female self-pleasure.

“How can we [show] the film with the title Pussy, or Call Me Marianna, about the transgender [people]? I think [these] will be the [focal point] of our festival . . . And you cannot talk about those kinds of people,” she says. “I assume that this is the reason why they didn’t have money for us . . . This is funny, because we get the support from the German Cultural Centre, and they will support us more than our embassy.” The Polish Embassy in Bangkok could not be reached for comment.

Another notable offering is Pretty Radical, co-directed by Marta Kasztelan and Marta Soszynska, which will be having its Cambodian premiere at the festival. It offers an insight into the life of a young girl supporting a far-right Polish nationalist group. Kasztelan will also be holding a Q&A session after the screening.

The other documentaries are more about the values, feelings and inner world of the Polish people, with a greater focus on smaller details and human relationships, which may be attributed to the fact that most of the films are directed by women. “We were looking for the best Polish films, and the best happened to be [almost] all directed by women,” says Radek Mlodzianowski, co-organiser of the film festival.

The festival’s poster, designed by Mlodzianowski, reflects this. Featuring a woman’s hand applying nail polish to a roll of film, the design is more than just a play on words. “When women put colour on their nails, they are very meticulous about it,” he says. “They pay a lot of attention to detail. It needs a lot of patience, like making documentaries. Men sometimes don’t think about that.”

The festival opens tonight at 6pm at Meta House, alongside the photo exhibition Polish Women With Dyed Red Hair.

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