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Radosław Śmigulski Dismissed As Director Of Polish Film Institute

Poland‘s Ministry of Culture has dismissed Radosław Śmigulski as director of the Polish Film Institute (PISF) in a move that has sent shockwaves across the local film industry even if it was not wholly unexpected.

Minister of Culture and Cultural Heritage Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz announced Śmigulski’s dismissal in a press conference on Thursday.

The PFI director was among three cultural institution directors and one research institute head, appointed under the rule of Poland’s former right-wing Law and Justice Party-led government, removed from their roles in the sweep.

The dismissals come amid a wider drive by centre-right Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s four-month-old government to restore the independence of state institutions that it says was eroded under the rule of the Law and Justice Party.

Sienkiewicz previously wielded the axe at Poland’s state broadcaster last December, firing top management amid accusations they had turned it into a mouthpiece for the right-wing politics of the previous government.

In a statement posted on the Ministry of Culture website as well as on its X account, Sienkiewicz was quoted as saying that Thursday’s dismissals would “reclaim” the impacted institutions for all “Polish men and women”.

“I believe that these institutions can be maintained, repaired and made into something much more than just a party source of financing,” he said.

Śmigulski was appointed to the role of PISF director in 2017 by Poland’s former right-wing Law and Justice government, replacing Magdalena Sroka.

The appointment sparked protest from cinema professionals in Poland and across Europe, with then European Film Academy President Wim Wenders publishing an open letter to Culture Minister Piotr Gliński condemning the move.

The Ministry of Culture said on Thursday that Śmigulski’s dismissal followed an audit of cinema financing conducted by the Supreme Audit Office as well as complaints from local film industry professionals of censorship and lack of transparency.

Back in February, Poland’s key film guilds, representing some 5,000 professionals, sent a letter to Sienkiewicz calling for Śmigulski’s removal.

“Several thousand filmmakers appealed to me to dismiss director Śmigulski due to the use of censorship, restrictions on artists, difficulties in settling applications and subsidies, as well as lack of transparency in the decisions made,” Sienkiewicz was quoted as saying.

Kamila Dorbach had been appointed as acting director of the institution, with the Ministry of Culture promising the appointment of a new permanent director through a competition for the position.

It added that the institution’s operations would be maintained and that funding rounds would take place as scheduled.

Śmigulski released a short statement to the Polish media confirming his departure.

“After over six years, today I ceased to be the Director of the Polish Film Institute. I would like to thank filmmakers, the media and collaborators for the recent years of cooperation. I wish my successor and the entire Polish film community many successes in the coming years,” it read.

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