Agnieszka Holland

Building bridges in the hearts and minds of people through film

Agnieszka Holland is a Polish film and television director and screenwriter, best known for her political contribution to Polish New Wave cinema. She studied at FAMU in Prague. As she said: „I went to school in Prague because there was no chance for me to be accepted at Lodz. My father was a well-known Party member and journalist who had been arrested on false accusations, and committed suicide by jumping out of a window while in custody.” In Czechoslovakia, she became involved in the events of the Prague Spring and was imprisoned for a month on the order of the Polish government. She commemorates these events, including the self-immolation of a student, Ján Palach, in the ‘Burning Bush’, a Czech biographical mini-series she directed in 2013. The part of her master class will be a screening of her diploma film from FAMU studio Hrich boha (The sin of god)

"When I'm shooting films, I am the one signing them but I'm aware of the fact that the films and my international appearances are also a bonus point for my country. Especially given the fact that I often talk about Polish culture, achievements and problems."

Holland came back to Poland during the 1970s, which was the start of her career. At this time, she began as an assistant director on Krzysztof Zanussi's Illumination and she also worked with Andrzej Wajda and his X Film Studio. She wrote several scripts with Wajda before directing her own films, which were soon winning awards at festivals. Her first major film was Provincial Actors, a chronicle of tense backstage relationships in a small-town theatre company, which was an allegory for the contemporary political situation in Polland. It won the International Critics Prize at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival.

„The fact that European films are not travelling has to change: cinema is a very important vehicle for the European Union as a real union because you can build real bridges in the hearts and minds of people through film.“ 

Her feature film Angry Harvest exploring the relationship between a Gentile farmer and a Jewish woman he hides during World War II was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1985. Six years later, Holland earned even greater international acclaim and scores of awards, including a Golden Globe, for Europa, Europa (1991). The powerful true story of a young Jewish man who assumes the identity of a Nazi in order to survive the Holocaust provided an unforgettable look at human atrocities and the nature of identity. That was the second Holland´s film nominated for an Oscar. She received three Academy Award nominations: in 1985 for the Angry Harvest, in 1991 for the screenplay of Europa, Europa and in 2011 for In Darkness, awarded with the Golden Globe.

"Today, I have the feeling that European cinema is running away from the most important issues. There is a disillusionment with political cinema and the few political films that are being produced, are very simplistic. European cinema is somehow ignoring the world."

Holland’s work also includes popular TV series and mini-series, such as The Wire, The Killing, Rosemary's Baby, House of Cards, Burning Bunch and Treme. In 2010 she received an Emmy nomination in the category Outstanding Directing for a Drama Serie for her work on the latter - HBO's Treme (2010). In January 2014, she took over the chairmanship of the European Film Academy board.