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  • Joanna Raczynska, Filmmaker Featured Artist

    Joanna Raczynska is the Assistant Curator, Department of Film Programs, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.   She is also a talented filmmaker and media arts curator.

    I met Joanna several years ago when she was the Media Arts Director & Curator at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center.seein-warsaw-home-page-1 At the time, I hired her to guest curate several media arts exhibits.  She proved to be a great curator exploring insightful, global social issues.  And to this day, I regard her as one of the best professionals I have worked with.  What made her stand out was not just her creativity, commitment and thoroughness in the execution of every project, but she also brought a rare, warm humanity to everything she did.  There is a certain depth of character and a reflective sensitivity to her interactions with others.  Some might say that she is an “old soul”.

    After working on several projects together, I began noticing some common, overarching themes in her curatorial approach that demonstrated a reverence for history and the past.  These themes were also strongly evident in her own film works.  I was to learn that this was because of her strong, deep Polish heritage.  Directly reflecting this are some of her film works which are intensely personal documents about her parents’ lives, both of whom were survivors of WW2 and subsequent Soviet occupied Poland.  These two extraordinary people overcame personal family tragedies at the hands of the Nazis and Soviet Communists to go on to stellar professional careers; her father, a highly successful international businessman; her mother, a Prima Ballerina with the Warsaw Ballet Company.

    Appearing at the beginning of her film, Seeing Warsaw, is a quote by Alex Haley, “History is written by the winners.” In Joanna’s case, it may be more appropriate to say “History is written by the survivors – and the ones that come after them.”   I hope you enjoy the remote interview we did with her found in our Featured Artist section.  And if you would like to see some of her films, visit her website at www.jraczynska.com.

    One of Joanna’s current projects at the National Gallery of Art is a film program which celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Polish composer, Frederic Chopin.  For details, see the events below or vist the National Gallery of Art’s website at www.nga.gov/programs/film.

    National Gallery of Art

    May 2010 film series “Moving Compositions: Aspects of Chopin”

    Experiment, Music, and Chopin in Polish Cinema

    Sunday May 9 at 4:30  
    Introduction by Marcin Gizycki 
    The experimental film practice of artists Franciszka and Stefan Themerson began in Poland and continued unabated after their emigration to London in 1942. Both they and their colleague Eugene Cekalski explored new ways of working with montage and sound, utilizing the emotional force and power of Chopin’s compositions to the fullest. Three restored shorts make up this program: Calling Mr. Smith (Franciszka and Stefan Themerson, 1943), Colour Studies of Chopin (Eugeniusz Cekalski, 1944), and Żelazowa Wola (Eugeniusz Cekalski, 1948), a beautifully imagined film about the influence of his music. (Total running time 52 minutes)

    The Heart and Soul of Warsaw
    Saturday May 15 at 2:00  
    This collection of rare shorts connects Chopin to Warsaw literally and metaphysically. The program includes Ballada f-moll (Andrzej Panufnik, 1945), a bird’s eye documentation of a devastated 1945 Warsaw; the newsreel Chopin’s Heart Returns to Warsaw (1945); Born in Warsaw (Maria Kwiatkowska, 1996), surveying Poland’s annual International Chopin Piano Competition; and Chopin’s Heart (Marian Marzynski, 2006), produced for Frontline. (Total running time 86 minutes)

    The Youth of Chopin (Młodość Chopina)
    Saturday May 22 at 4:00  
    Produced during the Stalinist regime, Ford’s feature imagines young Chopin as an idealistic student, intent on social as well as cultural revolution. Czesław Wollejko is perfect as the composer: fragile, passionate, and agonized. Performances are by Halina Czerny-Stefańska, winner of the 1949 International Chopin Piano Competition, and violinist Wanda Wilkomirska. (Alexander Ford, 1951, 35 mm, Polish with subtitles, 121 minutes) Presented in association with the Washington Chopin Festival and Andrzej Markowski Foundation.

    A Song to Remember
    Saturday May 29 at 1:00  
    Charles Vidor’s melodrama portrays Chopin (Cornel Wilde) as single-minded in his patriotic support of an independent Poland, until George Sand (Merle Oberon) diverts him and his cause. With piano performances by José Iturbi, this rarely screened biopic offers an account of the composer’s life in mid-nineteenth-century society across Poland, France, and Majorca. (Charles Vidor, 1945, 35 mm, 113 minutes)

    Iconic Sound: Chopin in Recent Film and Video
    Saturday May 29 at 3:30  
    A program of contemporary works that innovatively incorporate and reflect on Chopin’s compositions includes several recent animations—Prelude (Hieronim Noeumann, 1996), Nocturne (Kazimierz Urbanski, 1996), Etude C (Ewa Ziobrowska, 2010), Mazurek E (Elżbieta Kamieńska Mruszczak, 2010), and Novi Singers (Daniel Szczechura, 1996). Also on the program are the realization of a project begun by artists Paul Sharits and Jozef Robakowski in 1976, Attention: Light! (Wieslaw Michalak and Jozef Robakowski, 2004), and the pioneering video work The Orchestra by Oscar-winning artist Zbigniew Rybczynski (1990). (Total running time 89 minutes)

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    1. A beautiful summary account of Joanna’s personality and talents, and her tireless efforts for film art. Thank you, I loved reading it.

      Comment by Margaret Parsons — April 30, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

    2. Many thanks for taking the time to read the post on Joanna. She is a true gem among arts professionals. It was always my great pleasure to work with her on any project. And, I thought it was time that others knew more about her background and dedication to the media arts. Cheers.

      Comment by eryan — April 30, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

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