Polish B-movies are making it big in the UK

Despite the recent revival of arthouse cinema made in Poland, it is gangster thrillers and sugary rom-coms that are smashing British box offices.

Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko NewsMavens, Poland
Source: The Guardian
Polish B-movies are making it big in the UK - NewsMavens
Piotr Stramowski in Pitbull

Why this story matters:

Over the past 10 years, Polish cinema has once again become something to be proud of -- just like during the communist times, when directors such as Krzysztof Kieślowski, Andrzej Żuławski and Andrzej Wajda made their most renowned films.

Recently, Paweł Pawlikowski’s haunting “Ida” (Academy Award for Best Foreign Film) and Małgorzata Szumowska’s quirky “Body/Ciało” (Silver Bear on Berlinale) have won over not only international critics but also audiences.

However, a very different type of cinema is making it to the UK top 10. It mainly caters to the 1 million Polish residents on the islands and is a local take on mainstream Hollywood productions.

These are bloody gangster thrillers, full of sex, dirty money and violence, as well as naive romantic comedies reproducing gender stereotypes and promoting an idealistic vision of life in Poland.

Such releases gather less than favorable reviews in the country but continue to hit box offices.

Polish is the second most spoken language in the UK, so it is no surprise that Polish-language films enjoy some success. But with the anti-immigrant sentiments that contributed to Brexit, and growing unease about non-native populations in the UK, it is interesting to ponder the success of these films in the general marketplace.

Details from the story:

  • Among the most comercially sucessful Polish films in the UK are “Kobiety mafii” (Mafia Women), which took almost £900,000 last year, and the medical drama “Botoks” that amassed £1.06m. The latter became not only the third highest-grossing foreign-language release of 2017 (after Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden” and the Bollywood hit “Raees”) but the most successful Polish film ever in the UK.
  • After Poland entered the EU in 2004, approximately 3 million Poles migrated to the UK. Nowadays, there are 1 million Polish residents in the country.
  • Joanna Michalec, director of Phoenix Productions, the leading international distributor of Polish films, thus explains the popularity of their releases among the expat community in the UK: “There’s a certain mix of humour and toughness and a real eastern European vibe which Polish audiences like,” she told “The Guardian”. “I think they also like seeing Poland in a movie, and what’s important is they can go to a normal multiplex and see these films in Polish. That means a lot.”
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