When the Polish Film Festival began in 1999, Poland was in a period of adjustment after being under Communist rule for five decades. The film industry was in a state of transition too, festival founder Vladek Juszkiewicz said.
"They struggled," he said. "There were not many films, but I still think it was a good time to start the festival."
When the festival kicks off its 15th edition Tuesday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood with Weronika Migon's award-winning comedy "Sophie Seeks 7," it will have grown into a 10-day event attracting 3,000 to 4,000 attendees.
"We have had 94 different jurors from Hollywood looking at Polish films and judging them," Juszkiewicz said.
Since 1999, the festival has screened more than 600 classic and contemporary films. One reason the festival has grown and flourished is the renaissance of Polish cinema.
"Polish filmmakers have started to make films about contemporary things," Juszkiewicz said. "We have a much younger audience. This was our goal."
After the invitation-only gala opening and awards ceremony on Tuesday, the festival moves to the Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles and Laemmle's NoHo 7 in North Hollywood, where it continues through Oct. 16.
Other films screening at the festival include Barbara Bialowas' "Big Love"; Jan Jakub Kolski's "To Kill a Beaver"; Jacek Bromski's "One Way Ticket to the Moon"; the legendary Andrzej Wajda's latest, "Walesa. Man of Hope"; and Krzysztof Lukaszewicz's "Viva Belarus!"
Special guests include actors Dawid Ogrodnik and Antoni Pawlicki, veteran director Krzysztof Zanussi and French actress Emmanuelle Seigner, who is married to Roman Polanski.
Seigner will receive the festival's Pola Negri Award, which is given to non-Polish actors for their collaboration with Polish directors or for their work creating Polish characters. Seigner will receive the award Oct. 7 for her work in Polanski's latest film, "Venus in Fur," and in Jerzy Skolimowski's "Essential Killing." She'll appear in a Q&A session with F.X. Feeney after the Oct. 10 screening of "Venus in Fur."
Polish Film Festival
When: Oct. 7-16
Where: Public screenings at Laemmle's NoHo 7, 5240 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood