The first film studios featuring Jewish
directors and actors were established in Poland before the First World
War and produced silent films designed for Jewish audiences.
The Sila [Power] studio, founded by M. Towbin, made films directed
by M. Arnstein and filmed by S. Sebel: Chasydka i odstepca (1911), Der
wilder fater (Yiddish, Cruel Father, 1911, based on the play by J.
Gordin), Di Shtifmuter (Yiddish, Step-Mother, 1911), Bog, Czlowiek i
Szatan (Polish, God, Man and Satan, 1912, based on the play by Gordin),
Di Fershtoysene (Yiddish, The Disinherited, 1912, based on the play by
F. Waksman), Mirele Efros (1912, based on a work by Gordin, whose cast
included the entire Kaminski family). In 1913, the studio "Kosmos-Film"
was founded, which hired that same director and cameraman. It produced
Dem chazns tochter (Yiddish, The Cantor's Daughter), Der unbekanter
(Yiddish, The Stranger, 1913), Di shichte (Yiddish, The Shift, 1913),
Gots shtrof (Yiddish, Divine Punishment, 1913), all of them based on
works by Gordin, the last of which had E. R. and I. Kaminski in its
cast; Hertsele meyuches (Yiddish-Hebrew, Noble Heart, 1913, based on the
play The Oath by M. Richter, with E. R. Kami�ska); Zayn vaybs man
(Yiddish, Husband of His Wife, 1913, with I. Kaminska); and Di
Shtifmuter (Yiddish, The Step-Mother, 1914, based on a work by Gordin).
In 1924, L. Forbert founded the "Leo-Forbert" company and produced
Tchiyes Kaf (Hebrew, The Oath, 1924, directed by Z. Turkow, with a
screenplay by H. Bojm and pictures by cameraman S. Steinwurzel; its cast
included E. R. and I. Kaminski, W. Godiki, Z. Turkow; this same film
was released in a sound version, filmed again in 1937 with another
cast.) This studio also produced Lamed-vovnik (Polish title: Jeden z
trzydziestu szesciu [One of Thirty-Six], 1925, directed by H. Szaro) and
W lasach polskich [Polish, In the Polish Forests] based on a work by J.
Opatosz (1929). It was directed by J. Turkow, with a cast that included
both Polish and Jewish actors.
During the Depression, Jewish film production all but ceased, though
Jewish sound films made in the United States did find their way to
Poland. Soon sound films began to be produced there as well.
Two avant-garde films were made, directed by A. Ford which was confiscated by the censors.
In 1937, the director M. Waszy�ski made the film Dybuk [Dybbuk],
based on the play by S. An-Ski; its screenplay was written by A.
Kacyzne, Arnstein and A. Stern, with music by H. Kon, in collaboration
with experimental Jewish theaters. The cast included A. Morewski. This
film, made by "Feniks-Film", was one of the most important achievements
in the history of Jewish filmmaking.
In that same year, "Sektor Films Co." made a comedy titled Freyleche
kabtsonim (Polish title, Weseli Biedacy [Happy Paupers]), directed by
Z. Turkow, with music by Kon; its cast included two popular comedians,
S. D�igan and I. Schumacher. In 1935-1936, two film studios were founded
that specialized in Jewish Yiddish-language talkies, but that also
produced Polish films.
The first, "Green-Film", was founded by J.
Green (Grinberg), an actor and director who came to Poland after an
unsuccessful attempt to make a name for himself in Hollywood. Earlier,
he had worked with the Wilno Troupe and in the Jewish Art Theater of New
York. His company made several popular comedies, such as Yidl mitn fidl
(Polish title, Judel gra na skrzypcach [Yidl Plays the Fiddle], 1936,
directed by Green and J. Nowina-Przybylski, with a screenplay by K. Tom
and songs by I. Manger). Its cast included the American actress M. Picon
in the title role.
The studio also produced Der purimshpiler (Yiddish, The Purim
Players; Polish title, B�azen purimowy [Purim Fool] (1937), directed by
Green and Nowina-Przybylski, with text and songs by Manger, with the
participation of Z. Turkow and M. Bo�yka), Mamele (Yiddish, Little
Mother, 1938, directed by Green and Tom, with Picon in the title role),
and the melodrama A brivele der mamen (Yiddish, Letter to Mother, 1938,
with screenplay by M. Oszerowicz and Stern, and cameraman Steinwurzel).
Another studio, a cooperative called "Kinor", was founded by a group
of actors, including the comedians D�igan and Schumacher. It was run by
the Goskind brothers. It produced Al chet (Polish tile, Za grzechy [For
the Sins], 1937) and several short documentary films on Jewish life.
The last Jewish film made before the war in Poland was a comedy whose
screenplay was by Kacyzne, based on a play by Gordin, On a heym (Polish
title, Bezdomni [The Homeless], 1939; made by "Alma-Film"), with music
by I. Szajewicz and H. Wars; its cast included I. Kaminska and
Jewish actors and directors participated in the making of Polish
films as well. Szaro, for example, directed the silent film Na Sybir [To
Siberia] (1930), Dzieje grzechu [A History of Sin] (1933) and Ordynata
Michorowskiego [Michorowski's Estate] (1937). M. Znicz was very popular:
he played in Mlody las [Young Forest] (1934) and Zapomniana melodia
[Forgotten Melody] (1938).
For a short period after the war (1945-49), "Kinor" began making
films again. Several documentary films were made (Kronika [Chronicle],
Zydowskie osadnictwo na Dolnym Slasku [Jewish Settlement in Lower
Silesia], Droga do zdrowia [Road to Health]) and two feature films based
on real events: Mir lebngeblibene (Yiddish, We, Who Survived, 1948),
and Unzere kinder (Yiddish, Our Children, whose cast included D�igan and
Schumacher), which related the experiences of Jewish children during
the occupation. This film was only shown in Poland once, at a closed
The last Jewish film made in Poland was "Z ruin
do kraju ojczystego" [From Ruins to the Homeland], presenting the
activities of the Zionist youth. It was prepared semi-officially and
finished in France after the Jewish self-government and cultural
organizations had been liquidated by the communist government in Poland.
Most of the Jews working for "Kinor" emigrated. Ford, as a filmmaker
who had been involved with the First Polish Army in 1945, organized the
state-owned studio "Film Polski" in Lodz. The directors S. Wohl and N.
Gross worked for the studio, as did cameraman M. Jahoda. L. Perski was
associated with "Polska Kronika Filmowa" ("Polish Film Chronicle") for
many years, both as an actor and cameraman.
In 1948, Ford made Ulica Graniczna [Border Street] about ghetto
life; several Jewish actors played in it. Later, Jewish themes appear in
Polish films only from time to time, such as in the films Miasto
nieujarzmione [Unvanquished City] (1950), Bialy niedzwiedz [Polar Bear]
(1959) by J. Zarzycki; Samson (1961) by A. Wajda; Swiadectwo urodzenia
[Birth Certificate] (1961) by S. Rozewicz; Naganiacz (1963) E. and C.
Petelski; Salto (1965) by T. Konwicki; Niekochana [Unloved] (1966) by J.
Nasfeter; Wniebowstapienie [The Ascension] (1969) by J. Rybkowski;
Sanatorium pod klepsydra [Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass]
(1973) by W. Has; Ziemia Obiecana [Promised Land] (1975) by A. Wajda;
Austeria (1982) by J. Kawalerowicz; Kartka z podrozy [Postcard from a
Trip] (1983) by W. Dziki; Wedle wyrokow Twoich [According to Your
Judgements] (1983) by J. Hoffman; and Jeszcze tylko ten las [Just Beyond
This Forest] (1991) J. �omnicki.