FIPRESCI Platinum Award 2024

Malgorzata Szumowska

Małgorzata Szumowska

In the last decade or so, Małgorzata Szumowska has proven herself as one of European cinema’s most pronounced names. This year’s recipient of the FIPRESCI Platinum prize at the Sofia International Film Festival is one of the examples of how national cinema can become a vital part of world cinema and its transnational canon. Audiences around the world and in Bulgaria already know her work well, since it rarely goes unnoticed by festival juries. Her first films Szczęśliwy człowiek (Happy Man) and Ono were recognized by the European Film Academy and nominated for a discovery of the year award. Today, the director has already worked with the producers of  Whiplash and American Honey, she has made a survival thriller starring Naomi Watts (Infinite Storm), an English-language folk horror (The Other Lamb), as well as an elegant French drama with Juliette Binoche as a lead (Elles). She’s won more than 30 awards so far, including ones at Berlinale and Locarno.

The Polish director is unafraid of challenges and perhaps that’s why every film of hers presents a different version of our contemporary struggles. Her dedication towards the here and now (even broadly speaking) forms a deep social and political bond that is present in all the films’ themes. From personal trauma, unstable relationships between oneself and one’s body, sex work and sexuality, to the supernatural and the mythical origins of our social structures, all those motifs find their expressions in Szumowska’s eclectic style. One can see films such as Mug, Body, and In the Name Of… as works that birth a whole world out of unspoken feelings and silenced conversations. Through these attempts to represent moral and emotional dilemmas in a specifically cinematic form, the director has carved her own canon within European cinema.

The aesthetics of her films are also owed to the long-lasting collaborations with Szumowska’s cinematographer, Michal Englert, who also became a co-director for her latest projects: Never Gonna Snow Again, Infinite Storm, and last year’s Venice Golden Lion contender, Woman Of… Their creative collaboration transcends genre and visual styles: from sci-fi to a period drama set in the very recent past. Woman Of… tells the story of Aniela, born in the body and with the name of a man, Andrzej, her struggle for equality and liberation. Gender dysphoria is what shapes Aniela’s journey as one of endless fights and emancipation, but it is told without any sentimental excess.

Savina Petkova

See also a partial record of the massterclass.