"An artist is not obliged to fight for social issues, but if that is his temperament, there is no reason for him not to speak out on important issues. I am very interested in homo politicus and have a sense of responsibility for what is happening around me" (Agnieszka Holland, in conversation with Bartosz Staszczyszyn, www.culture.pl, 27.05.2014). She was born on 28 November 1948 in Warsaw into the family of a journalist, Irena Rybczyńska, and a journalist and sociologist, Henryk Holland. After a few years, her parents divorced, and soon her father was arrested as a suspected traitor. He died in unexplained circumstances.

After graduating from the Stefan Batory Secondary School in Warsaw, she went on to study Film and Television at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. During the Prague Spring in 1968, she took an active part in students` strikes, and in 1970 she was arrested for six weeks by the Czechoslovak security service. After completing her studies, she returned to Poland, where she worked as an assistant to Krzysztof Zanussi. She was also associated with the Andrzej Wajda-managed ‘X’ Film Group. In 1978, she wrote the screenplay for ‘Without Anaesthesia’, a film by Andrzej Wajda that won the Golden Lions at the Polish Film Festival. Holland's first major success came the same year with the film ‘Provincial Actors’, which was honoured with the FIPRESCI award at the 33rd Cannes International Film Festival. In 1980, Holland made 'Fever', a film that was an adaptation of Andrzej Strug's novel 'The Story of One Bullet'. As in her other pictures, the director presented here a vision of the world as a machine that traps man.

The outbreak of martial law found the director in France and there she decided to stay in exile. At that time she cooperated with Wajda in writing the screenplay for ‘Danton’ and ‘Korczak’. While living in West Germany, she made the film 'Bitter Harvest' ('Bittere Ernte'), which touched on the Holocaust and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1985. The film's producer, Artur Brauner, approached Holland again with a proposal to make a film based on the true story of a Jewish boy, Solomon Perel, who, hiding his own identity, joined the Hitlerjugend militia. ‘Europe, Europe’, as the film is titled, received Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Working outside Poland, Holland made a number of important titles: ‘Olivier, Olivier’ in 1992, ‘The Secret Garden’ in 1993, ‘Total Eclipse’ in 1995 or ‘Washington Square’ in 1997.

Twenty years after making ‘Europe, Europe’, Holland returned to the subject of the Holocaust in 2011. Entitled 'In Darkness', the film tells the story of a Lvov sewer worker, Leopold Socha, who saved a group of Jews by hiding them in the sewers during 2nd World War. The film received excellent reviews and brought the artist many significant awards, including the Golden Lions at the Gdynia Film Festival and an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Other important productions in the director's oeuvre include the 2013 mini-series ‘Burning Bush’, 2016's ‘Pokot’, based on the book by Olga Tokarczuk, 2019's ‘Citizen Jones’ and 2020's ‘The Charlatan’, 2023's ‘Green Border’.

Agnieszka Holland, 6th Polish Film Festival in Gdańsk, 1979, photo by Jerzy Kośnik / Forum

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