The Dismissal of Radosław Śmigulski: A Turning Point for Polish Film Industry

The Dismissal of Radosław Śmigulski: A Turning Point for Polish Film Industry

The recent dismissal of Radosław Śmigulski as director of the Polish Film Institute (PFI) has sent shockwaves across the local film industry in Poland. The move by Poland‘s Ministry of Culture, headed by Minister Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, has been met with mixed reactions, although it was not entirely unexpected. Śmigulski was one of three cultural institution directors and one research institute head appointed under the rule of Poland’s former right-wing Law and Justice Party-led government who were removed from their roles in the sweep.

The dismissals come as part of a wider drive by centre-right Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government to restore the independence of state institutions that were perceived to have been eroded under the previous government. Sienkiewicz had previously made bold moves by removing top management at Poland’s state broadcaster, accusing them of turning it into a mouthpiece for right-wing politics. In a statement released by the Ministry of Culture, Sienkiewicz emphasized that the dismissals were meant to “reclaim” the impacted institutions for the benefit of all “Polish men and women.”

Śmigulski was appointed as the director of PFI in 2017, replacing Magdalena Sroka. His appointment sparked protests from cinema professionals in Poland and across Europe, with strong criticism coming from then European Film Academy President Wim Wenders. The Ministry of Culture cited an audit of cinema financing by the Supreme Audit Office and complaints from local film industry professionals about censorship and lack of transparency as reasons for Śmigulski’s dismissal.

In February, key film guilds in Poland, representing around 5,000 professionals, sent a letter to Sienkiewicz urging for the removal of Śmigulski. The film industry professionals raised concerns about censorship, restrictions on artists, difficulties in settlement of applications and subsidies, as well as lack of transparency in decision-making processes. Sienkiewicz acknowledged the concerns of the filmmakers and made the decision to dismiss Śmigulski.

Following the dismissal of Śmigulski, Kamila Dorbach has been appointed as the acting director of the institution. The Ministry of Culture has promised to appoint a new permanent director through a competition for the position. It has also assured that the institution’s operations will continue as usual, with funding rounds taking place as scheduled. Despite his departure, Śmigulski expressed gratitude towards filmmakers, the media, and collaborators for their years of cooperation and wished his successor and the entire Polish film community success in the future.

The dismissal of Radosław Śmigulski marks a significant turning point for the Polish film industry. It reflects the government’s commitment to restoring independence in state institutions and addressing concerns raised by the local film industry professionals. The appointment of a new director for the Polish Film Institute through a competitive process signifies a fresh start for the institution and paves the way for a more transparent and inclusive approach to supporting the Polish film community.


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