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This year’s Dragon of Dragons winner passes away

Finnish documentary filmmaker Jarmo Jääskeläinen has passed away. He was to receive the most valuable statuette of the Krakow Film Festival in May.

On 2 January 2022, the Finnish director and producer Jarmo Jääskeläinen passed away. A month earlier, on 2 December 2021, the Program Council of the Krakow Film Foundation decided to award him the Dragon of Dragons for his contribution to global documentary cinema.

The award ceremony, the winner’s master class, and a retrospective of his work were to take place during the next edition of the Krakow Film Festival.

We are shocked to learn of the death of our laureate, who confirmed his trip to Krakow two weeks ago. He was very much looking forward to visiting Poland and meeting his friends, as well as young viewers who have not yet had the opportunity to see his films, says festival director Krzysztof Gierat.

Jääskeläinen began his studies at the Łódź Film School in 1965, then stayed in Poland for many years, documenting the turbulent events of the 1970s and the 1980s thoroughly and without any censorship. His films are a perfect testimony to the changes in the consciousness of Poles regaining their inner freedom and fighting for the right to live with dignity.

Photos from the director’s family archive.

Through his camera, Jääskeläinen observed Stanisław Pyjas’s friends and their shock after his death in 1977, the hopes of Poles related to the first visit of John Paul II to his homeland in 1979, the pain and rage after the murder of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko in 1984. During martial law, the director looked at the internees and analysed the moods in Solidarity; in the film Monument he would return to 1970 and the tragic December events. Many years later, in 2011, he will find the three participants of the Gdańsk strike and listen to their bitter reflections about the ideals of August 1980 being squandered.

Jääskeläinen was one of the first directors to take a deep look at the tragedy of the Holocaust. His sensitivity is confirmed by the films: Famine Disease, awarded with the Silver Hobby Horse at the Krakow Film Festival in 1984, and Lastauspaikka, Umschlagplatz – the first extended film interview with Marek Edelman.

He continued his career in Finland as a director, producer, and teacher. In 2011, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Finnish Television Academy.

An evening dedicated to the output of the Dragon of Dragons winner together with a screening of Jarmo Jääskeläinen’s films will be held during the upcoming Krakow Film Festival.

The Dragon of Dragons Award is the highest distinction awarded by the Programme Council of the Krakow Film Foundation, the organiser of the Krakow Film Festival, in recognition of the contribution to the development of world cinematography in the field of documentary and animated film. The laureates have so far included many outstanding filmmakers such as Werner Herzog, Priit Pärn, Kazimierz Karabasz, Bohdan Kosiński, Bogdan Dziworski, Allan King, Albert Maysles, Jonas Mekas, Marcel Łoziński, Helena Trestíková, Stephen and Timothy Quay, Raoul Servais, Jerzy Kucia, and Paul Driessen.

The Krakow Film Festival is Poland’s most important festival dedicated to documentary, short, and animated film. It’s a space where prominent and established filmmakers from all over the world meet newcomers, and the audience can meet the creators and film protagonists in person. It is a festival of special premieres and a stepping stone to international career, but above all a meeting place for everyone who loves cinema – in Krakow’s legendary studio cinemas and in the virtual world of online screenings. The heart of documentary cinema beats in Kraków!

The Krakow Film Festival will be held in Kraków cinemas from 29 May to 5 June, and online throughout Poland on 3–12 June 2022.