Tribute to award-winning director Pavel Pawlikowski

Tribute to award-winning director Pavel Pawlikowski
Tribute to award-winning director Pavel Pawlikowski

The tribute to the documentaries of the Oscar-winning creator Pavel Pawlikowski is one of the strongest moments of this year’s 45th International Festival of Short Drama which will be held from September 5 to 11.

This dedicated section includes four BBC-produced documentaries;shot in the 90s, which are of great interest today, as a new “reading” of what Pawlikowski recorded with his camera at the time gives food for thought – especially in light of the current tragic developments in Europe.

They are all there: from Putin and Zhirinovsky, to Trump and the only descendant of Dostoyevsky who dreams of owning a Mercedes. The war in Bosnia, Russia’s landmark elections in 1993, promises of a triumphant return of the Russian Empire, the cultivation of an ethnocentric worldview… All this, and
many more, through the unique look of a special creator.

O Pavel Pawlikowski was born in Warsaw and left Poland at the age of 14 for the UK, Germany and Italy, before finally settling in the UK in 1997. He studied literature and philosophy in London and Oxford.

He started making documentaries for the BBC in the late 80s. His documentaries, including From Moscow to Pietushki, Dostoevsky’s Travels, Serbian Epics, Tripping with Zhirinovsky Traveling with Zhirinovsky”), have won many international awards such as Emmy and Prix Italia.

In 1998, he switched to fiction with “Twockers”, a low-budget TV movie. He then wrote and directed two feature films, “The Last Refuge” and “The Summer of My Love”. Both won awards at the BAFTAs and many other festivals around the world. In 2011, he made The Fifth Woman. His film, “Ida”, won, among many other awards, the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film 2015, five European Film Academy Awards, a BAFTA Award and a Goya.

Pawlikowski returned to Poland in 2013, while completing “Ida”. His latest film Cold War premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2018. The jury praised the performances, screenplay, direction, and cinematography. The film received many accolades, including three nominations at the 91st Academy Awards (Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography) and four at the 72nd BAFTA Awards (Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film). It also received the Best Director award at Cannes. Today, he lives in Warsaw and teaches directing and screenwriting at the Wajda School.

The films of the tribute

Dostoevsky’s Travels

United Kingdom, 1991
Production: BBC Films

Dmitri Dostoyevsky is a tram driver in Leningrad and the only living descendant of the great writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky. As the Berlin Wall falls, he travels to Western Europe at the invitation of the haughty members of the Dostoevsky Club of Friends. Following his great-grandfather’s trip to Europe in 1862, Dimitri also follows his dream of owning a white E class Mercedes.

Tripping With Zhirinovsky
United Kingdom, 1995
Production: BBC Films
A surreal boat trip with populist demagogue Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whose oddly named Liberal Democratic Party won 23% of the vote in Russia’s first free elections in 1993. Campaigning from his white steamer sailing the Volga, Zhirinovsky promises the desperate and disillusioned crowd gathering on the docks an economic miracle, the return of the Russian Empire and revenge against its enemies. His rhetoric and logic are Trump-like. His geopolitical ideas are like Putin’s. A man ahead of his time.

Serbian Epics

United Kingdom, 1992
Production: BBC Films
Filmed in Bosnia during the war in 1992, this documentary is far from the usual clichés of war reporting. It adopts an anthropological and poetic angle that relies not on commentary, but on the power of the image: a group baptism before the final battle, the strange looks of the remaining members of the House of Karajorgević, and the folk songs of Serbian peasants/soldiers on the front line . The result is a more universal exploration of the nature of the nation-state, myth-making, and ethnocentric worldview.

From Moscow to Pietushki: A Journey with Benedict Gerofeev (From Moscow to Pietushki)
United Kingdom, 1990
Produced by Roger Thompson, BBC

The film is based on the novel “Moscow with Vodka”. We follow the narrator’s 99-kilometer, alcohol-fueled, epic journey from Moscow to Petuski. It is an Odyssey through space, time, history, philosophy and literature. A journey that begins with longing and hope and ends in terrifying delirium and death.


The internationally recognized creator will be, on Saturday 17/9, at the Film Library of Greece, where part of this year’s DISFF program will be presented on 15-18, to participate in a discussion-masterclass of the Drama Festival, in the framework of the Cinematherapy program.

The program, edited by Denis Nikolakou, is now synonymous with the name of Pawel Pawlikowski as he was the Oscar-winning director who launched it with his film Cold War (2018) at the 43rd edition of the Drama Short Film Festival in 2020.

During the event, excerpts from his rich work (which also includes his important period of BBC documentaries) will be shown and will be followed by a discussion and Q&A in the presence of the director and artistic director Yiannis Sakaridis. In the coordination of the discussion and in the psychological deciphering of his work, Denis Nikolakou.

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The article is in Greek

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