Bíó Paradís is now showing mainstream Polish titles to cater for Iceland’s growing population of Polish immigrants. The initiative, conceived by Paradís Program Director, Ása Baldursdóttir, began with a screening of ‘Botoks’ (‘Botox’) on October 14th 2017, which was attended by Polish natives came from far and wide. Since then, titles such as ‘Listy Do M. 3’ (‘Letters to Santa 3’), ‘Ach Spij Kochanie’ (‘Lullaby Killer’) and ‘Volta’ have been well-received, with more to come in the New Year. The popularity of the project to date has reflected the dearth of cultural products accessible for immigrants and the importance of cultural recognition for minorities in Iceland.
A change of tack
Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004 and the Schengen Zone in 2007, the Polish community in Iceland has exponentially increased. In fact, by January 1st 2017, almost 14,000 Poles had settled in Iceland, constituting 38.3% of all immigrants and around 4% of the Icelandic population. Catering for this significant minority population is, then, a relatively new prospect and given that it is expensive and logistically difficult for Polish people to return home, keeping cultural offerings broad seems like an astute move.
“Even though we strive to get more artistic titles, we want to provide something accessible for Polish people,” Ása says. “We want to provide escapism and to do that we cannot just screen art films.” Artistic importance is rarely a second thought at Bíó Paradís, however, in this case, it is necessary to make an exception. “Maybe in the future a taste for that will develop,” Ása laughs. After producing famed directors such as Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polanski, surely this is only a matter of time.
As titles have been decided by the Polish community themselves, the project also has a more cooperative feel than your average cinema screening. “Polish people are really hungry to meet other people from their community and it’s nice to see that this project has brought them together,” Ása elaborates. “This kind of thing is very rewarding for communities that are starving for something like this.”
Especially for Poles working in the countryside, the initiative has proved a welcome antidote to physical and cultural isolation, proving that more can be done, especially outside of Reykjavík. “In 2011, we did a community outreach project that was called ‘Films on the Fringe,’ and we went to ten different locations in Iceland which don’t have cinemas,” Ása explains. “We noticed that the Polish community was very prominent in rural Icelandic areas and we would love to do more for them.”
For the time being, Ása insists that all of those in the capital can benefit from seeing Polish films and that expanding the cooperative spirit of the project would only be beneficial. “Now we have all these films with English subtitles and because most Icelanders are fluent in English, this is an open window for people to enjoy something different,” she concludes.
In the New Year, Paradís will be showcasing several new titles, including ‘Kobiety Mafii’ (‘Women of the Mafia’), while ‘Najlepsz,’ (‘Breaking the Limits’) is now being screened. So, whether you’re Polish and craving home, or not, and craving a delicious slice of multiculturalism, be sure to check out some Polish cinema in 2018. Heck, why not make it your New Year’s Resolution?