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A documentary called “Hen and the War”, co-written and co-directed by Professor Barbara Giza from SWPS University, won the Audience Award, in the Best Documentary category, at the 2020 Warsaw Jewish Film Festival (WJFF), one of the biggest film events in Eastern Europe. The film tells a life story of Józef Hen, a Polish writer, screenwriter, and playwright of Jewish origin. “My professional interests focus on the links between literature and film, therefore making a documentary about such an acclaimed writer and screenwriter, as Józef Hen, was an enthralling experience for me,” says Prof. Barbara Giza. Congratulations!

“Hen and the War”

The documentary is both a biography and an autobiography of Józef Hen, a Polish Jew, born as Józef Henryk Cukier, a writer, journalist, playwright, reporter and screenwriter, who is well known and highly acclaimed by many generations of readers and film enthusiasts in Poland. Józef Hen has written numerous screenplays for popular Polish films, including “No One is Calling”, “The Cross of Valor”, “The Law and the Fist”, “Royal Dreams”, “The Life of Kamil Kurant”, and “An Ancient Tale: When the Sun Was a God”.

The life of Józef Hen, as the lives of many Polish Jews of his generation, was tragically marked by WWII. He witnessed and experienced dramatic events that impacted his life and shaped him as a man and as a writer. He lost several members of his closest family. He was deported to Soviet Russia, where in an exotic Samarkand, in Uzbekistan, he met his future wife. He returned to Poland with the First Polish Army, which was formed in the Soviet Union in 1944, under the command of Zygmunt Berling.

The filmmakers presented the life of Józef Hen on the backdrop of his war experiences and in the context of autobiographical strategy that he followed as a man and as an artist. The documentary shows Hen’s way of looking at the world and explains how he uses reality for literary purposes.

Professor Barbara Giza, who co-written and co-directed the film, talks about the documentary and its protagonist:

“Understanding Józef Hen’s films must include the knowledge that, to a large degree, they are an illustration of his life, for example motivations, characters, and situations are directly inspired by his artistically transformed experience. However, the most important thing in “Hen and the War” is not focusing on Hen’s experiences, because he does not want to be a veteran. The heart of the matter in the film is his attitude towards the world, which comes from the Jewish tradition. Hen approaches everything that happened to him good-naturedly, even with a Talmudic reflection of a Wandering Jew, whom the cruel faith drives from place to place, but despite everything, he accepts what life throws at him with stoicism and calmness, understanding that the only rule in life is life’s unpredictability. In the film, the time of war is not only a memory, but also a time of an upturned order of the world: something oppressive turns out to be good, and something good proves to be a tragedy. In this context, war is an experience that teaches us caution in making quick and easy judgements imposed by simple perception of reality.”

"The Audience Award in the Best Documentary category is a huge honor for me. It confirms the we were able to connect with the viewers, who in our story found something special and valuable, which resonated with their personal experiences, feelings, and situations they went through. It is like a good and effective conversation, an exchange of ideas, which results in a long-lasting value and provides deep satisfaction from making this connection.”

Prof. Barbara Giza, Head of the Department of Journalism and Communication, SWPS University

 

Warsaw Jewish Film Festival 

The Warsaw Jewish Film Festival (WJFF) was established in 2003 and is the first and the largest Jewish Film Festival in Poland and Eastern Europe. The Festival has been acquiring some of the finest films on Jewish themes from around the world for the past 18 years. The films explore Jewish culture, history and the contemporary life of Jewish communities from around the globe. So far, the Festival has screened over 650 movies from 30 countries.

The mission of WJFF is to preserve the Jewish heritage in Poland, cultivate the memory of the Holocaust, promote Jewish culture, and to present the diversity of Jewish communities worldwide. The goal is to give Jewish and non-Jewish movie-goers an opportunity to get acquainted with different perspectives of Jewish issues reflected on the screen. The Festival also aims to offer compelling and memorable movies to as large an audience as possible. The Festival organizers encourage viewers to discuss and contemplate Jewish identity and to oppose stereotyping and anti-Semitism, in order to stimulate more tolerant attitudes and a greater respect for the human rights of all people and nations.

More information »

258 Barbara Giza

Prof. Barbara Giza – is the Head of the Department of Journalism and Communication at SWPS University. Her area of expertise comprises history and theory of film as well as journalism and mass media. Her research focuses on the role of film in the contemporary audiovisual culture and aspects of screen adaptations of literature, such as copyright and screenwriting. Her other research interests include the history of Polish film, film theory, history and theory of screenwriting, film criticism, film journalism, socio-political aspects of film, autobiographical elements in film, and Polish writers and filmmakers in the era of Communism. Professor Giza is also a researcher at the National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute in Warsaw, specializing in film and film culture. She is a co-researcher in a social research project “Poles about Polish films”, financed by the Polish Film Institute (PISF). She is a member of the International Federation of Film Critics FIPRESCI, a board member of the Polish Society for Film and Media Studies, and a member of the editorial board of Pleograf, a quarterly magazine published by the Polish Film Academy. More information »

Rankings & Recognition

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