'A crazy ride through the Warsaw disco scene of the seventies'twitter/_anne_laurel

With almost a million Poles living across the UK, the Polish form one of the largest immigrant groups in Britain. Whenever I tell an English person I’m from Poland, it almost always miraculously turns out that they have a friend  or a friend of a friend, of Polish descent. The British social landscape is studded with Polish communities and this strong presence just isn’t reflected in the representation (or lack thereof) of Poles on British screens.

 A few weeks ago I finally caught up with the stunning and highly recommendable Killing Eve. But the first episode made me cringe for most of its duration because of one minor character, a Polish young woman, Kasia, a girlfriend (a sex worker?) of an Eastern European politician who is murdered in mysterious circumstances. (Un)surprisingly, Kasia turns out to be the epitome of the Eastern European stereotype.

 When we see her for the first time, she is under the influence of either alcohol, drugs, or both. She keeps mumbling mostly swear words and singing: “Pour me one more!” The interpreter is unable to understand her because she’s using ‘youth slang.' After all, why would MI5 employ an interpreter who’s both a Polish native speaker and speaks perfect English?

Kasia is murdered later in the episode and we don’t get a chance to get to know this potentially fascinating character better. I’m not angry at the Killing Eve writers or producers, nor am I saying that she should be depicted as an Oxbridge-educated Polish intellectual with a PhD in French literature. Her character just made me realise that I have never seen a well-written Polish character who isn’t either indulging in vodka or is unable to say a single word in English in British cinema and TV.

Malgorzata Szumowska's latest movie, The Other Lambtwitter/mmadnesstiff

 It’s high time this changed. The Polish community in the UK has grown so big that it can’t be as homogenous as producers portray it to be. Because such a miracle won’t probably happen in the near future, though, if you’d like to get to know the richness of Polish culture or just impress your Polish crush, here are a few films that can help you understand the richness of Polish cultural landscape:

  • Ida — while many people have heard of Kieślowski, not that many have heard of Pawlikowski. He’s not as metaphysical as Kieślowski, but this only renders his work more accessible. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, Ida is a story of two women who go on a search for the anonymous graves of their beloved relatives. This film explores the theme of historical memory and the ambiguity of Polish modern history. It sparked a lot of controversy on the Polish political scene and particularly angered the fair-right and nationalists. 
  • The Lure — Smoczyńska’s feature debut is a crazy ride through the Warsaw disco scene of the seventies. With sensual mermaids as its main characters, I can guarantee an abundance of kitsch and glitter.
  • Body — Szumowska’s film is a spiritual journey about repressed suffering and the inability to process our losses.
  • Cold War — Pawlikowski’s heartrending masterpiece of last year is a delicately woven, complicated, and impossible love story. It is shot in black and white, accompanied by Polish folk music in jazz versions and set in the grim communist reality of the fifties and sixties.
  • Corpus Christi — Jan Komasa’s most recent work, one of the best-written Polish films in the 21st century, also one of the few Polish films I’ve seen that criticises the  Catholic Church in a way that deals sensitively with both sides.

Sponsored links