Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 3
24 January 2000

Cultural news from Poland C U L T U R E   R O U N D - U P:
Poland's Week in Culture

Wojtek Kosc

Welcome to the new formula of Polish cultural news roundup! From this week on the roundup will be more clearly divided into various sections and bigger articles (analyses, interviews) will appear more often. Also, a new "Book of the Week" section is introduced.

This week’s roundup main news is an honorary Oscar for Andrzej Wajda and our featured text is concerned with the Kraków 2000 Festival inaugurated on Saturday. Our book of the week is Moje lampki oliwne (My Olive Lamps) by the late Jerzy Waldorff.

In this week's overview of cultural events in Poland we have:

Click on the appropiate heading or just scroll down to browse.

Oscar for Wajda

Andrzej Wajda

Andrzej Wajda, whom CER readers certainly know, at least from reviews of his latest production Pan Tadeusz [Click here for a Kinoeye review], has received an honorary Oscar in reward for the course of his whole career. The news reached Poland on the very early hours of Thursday, 20 January. Apart from Pan Tadeusz, Wajda is perhaps best known for his Człowiek z żelaza (Man of Iron, 1981), Cannes Festival winner. In competition for the Oscar, Wajda beat director Sidney Lumet and producer Roger Corman.

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Cultural Announcements

The Center of Modern Art in Gdańsk invites everyone to an exhibition entitled Art Negotiators. Facing Reality in which the main Polish artists of the 1990s will present their works. Just a few names should be enough to prompt every Polish art lover to Gdańsk: Miroslaw Balka, Katarzyna Kozyra and Leon Tarasewicz will be among exhibited artists.

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Book of the Week

Jerzy Waldorff
Moje lampki oliwne
(My Olive Lamps)

Iskry Publishing House, Warsaw 1999

The title olive lamps do not refer to the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw to which the late Jerzy Waldorff dedicated the last 25 years of his life. They refer to the essays and memories gathered in this book and which the author places on the grave of the 20th century, a century "most chaotic, sometimes dramatic and sometimes ludicrous" as Waldorff writes. As a result the readers receive a book of anecdotes and memories of the events and people forgotten long time ago. Waldorff remembers musicians (for music was his passion throughout his long life), describes pre-war and nowadays Wilno, etc. It is journey through time and places, a little old-fashioned yet full of charm.

Moje lampki oliwne can be found here.

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The Kraków 2000 Festival

In 1995 Kraków was officially given the title of European City of Culture 2000, along with Reykjavik, Prague, Bologna, Avignon, Bergen, Helsinki, Brussels and Santiago de Compostela. Since that time Kraków has been involved in a series of cultural events that were to lead the city into the so-called new millennium. And now, here we are in 2000 and Kraków kicked off to a start of what is to become the culmination of the five year long cultural feast - the Kraków 2000 Festival.

The symbolic beginning of the big event was a parade of historic figures that marched through the city center, kidnapped the city's president on the way, then listened to his speech and then met the city's officials in the magistrate building. In other words, the beginning of the festival grabbed its overall mode: a mixture of sometimes most different events, cultural traditions and various undertakings for wide public and the elite.

The festival's slogan is "Kraków: Spirituality-Thought-Creativity" and under this heading the organizators gathered a plethora of events. We have classical music performances and a conference of the public libraries' managers, ancient religious songs and a puppet theater, a festival of Austrian Culture, celebrations of Solidarity's 20th anniversary, ballet, Jewish culture presentations and graphics exhibitions, we can see gods of ancient Egypt and then spectacles from Kantor or Wyspianski...

The choice and the extreme variety of the events is criticized by some and praised by others. The critics argument that the festival has been overdone and events are aplenty because people responsible for the festival program did not really have one leading idea of how to organize it so that Kraków would be presented both as a European and as a Polish city. And well promoted abroad, too.

Those in favor of the festival formula claim such a versatile and varied program is simply a reflection of Kraków atmosphere where cultures have mixed for the last 600 years and where there has always been a deep understanding for cultural matters. That gods of ancient Egypt do not match well with a Polish city? They were studied by Krakow scientists!

Time will tell who is right and the good moment for the festival assessment will come next year after the whole event will have drawn to a close. As for now the only sensible thing is to go to Krakow and enjoy the festival, whether by absorbing its controversial variety or choosing carefully what to see or take part in.

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Compiled by Wojtek Kosc




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