Poland’s Ministry of Culture Dismisses Director of Polish Film Institute

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The recent dismissal of Radosław Śmigulski as the director of the Polish Film Institute (PFI) by Poland’s Ministry of Culture has sent shockwaves across the local film industry. While the move may not have been entirely unexpected, it has raised concerns and stirred up discussions within the cultural sphere of the country. Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz made the announcement during a press conference, along with the removal of several other institution directors and a research institute head who were appointed under the previous government.

The dismissals are part of a broader effort by the current government to restore the independence of state institutions that were perceived to have been compromised during the previous administration’s time in power. This move comes on the heels of similar actions taken by the government to restructure other key institutions that had been accused of being influenced by partisan politics. Minister Sienkiewicz emphasized that the goal of these dismissals is to reclaim the institutions for the benefit of all Polish citizens, regardless of their political affiliations.

Śmigulski’s appointment as the director of the PFI in 2017 had already stirred controversy within the film industry in Poland and beyond. His tenure was marked by protests from cinema professionals and criticism from prominent figures such as Wim Wenders, who condemned the move in an open letter to the Culture Minister at the time. The Ministry of Culture cited an audit of cinema financing and complaints from local film industry professionals regarding censorship and lack of transparency as reasons for Śmigulski’s dismissal.

In response to the dismissal, Kamila Dorbach has been appointed as the acting director of the PFI, with the Ministry of Culture announcing plans to conduct a competition for the selection of a new permanent director. Despite the change in leadership, the Ministry assured that the institution’s operations would continue uninterrupted and that funding rounds would proceed as scheduled. Śmigulski, in a brief statement to the media, expressed gratitude towards filmmakers, the press, and collaborators for their support during his tenure and wished success to his successor and the Polish film community.

The dismissal of Radosław Śmigulski as the director of the Polish Film Institute reflects a broader effort by the government to restructure state institutions and ensure their independence from political influences. While the move has stirred controversy and garnered mixed reactions from the film industry, it highlights the ongoing dialogue and scrutiny surrounding cultural institutions in Poland. As the PFI undergoes a leadership transition, the future of the organization and its impact on the Polish film community remain uncertain.

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