Clad in track pants, a coat and a stocking cap over his buzzed hair, Polish filmmaker Mariusz Moscicki chats in Polish with Zbigniew Kruczalak, owner of D&Z House of Books (5507 W Belmont Ave, 773-282-4222), which sells subtitled Polish films on DVD, books in Polish and English, and CDs. Ever the self-promoter, Moscicki wants to know whether the bookstore in the predominantly Polish Northwest Side neighborhood of Belmont Cragin carries his films (it does).
“There aren’t many Polish filmmakers in Chicago,” Moscicki explains in heavily accented English. “They all go to Hollywood.” He cites Janusz Kaminski, Steven Spielberg’s Polish director of photography who transferred from Columbia College to the American Film Institute in California. Moscicki feels the lure of Hollywood’s siren song, but for now he’s concentrating on his work-in-progress, a documentary tentatively titled Poles Are…, which focuses on how Chicago’s Polish immigrant community is perceived. “You read a lot of negative stuff about the Polish community in Chicago on blogs and the Internet,” Moscicki explains, “people saying Polish immigrants are rude or uneducated, that they drink too much. But most people won’t say this sort of thing in front of a camera.” He plans to interview Poles and Americans living in Chicago, hoping to capture their unvarnished opinions. “I feel like the relationship between Poles and Polish-Americans is quite thin. Some people treat immigrants as if they just got off the plane,” Moscicki says. He has his own mixed feelings toward his community—“There’s good and there’s bad,” he says—but he’s more interested in other people’s views. He carries a small video camera, ready to shoot candid interviews on a moment’s notice; he plans to wrap up production in late spring.
Moscicki’s pensive, serious demeanor is the perfect foil for his dry sense of humor. Smart and Clever (2008), a feature-length film Moscicki produced in Chicago, is a black comedy about a Polish immigrant swindled by a villainess named Ursula Ham. “Ham, like the meat. In Polish, it’s a word for a not very nice person, like bastard or motherfucker,” he says with a smirk. Growing up in Warsaw in the ’80s and ’90s, Moscicki loved the antics of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which inspired his teenage attempts at moviemaking—Jackass -style comedy sketches he filmed with his friends. “I also like porn movies,” he adds. “But the scripts could be better.” As for Polish films? “Seksmisja (Sex Mission) is a great film for people of all ages,” he says, referring to an early-’80s sci-fi cult film about two men who wake after 50 years of hibernation to a planet populated entirely by women. D&Z’s Kruczalak carries slapstick comedies like Seksmisja in his store, along with the more serious art-house stuff he prefers.
While Moscicki and Kruczalak may have divergent tastes in film, they agree Chicago’s Polish Film Festival in America, which screens movies from Polish filmmakers each November, is an invaluable resource. “There are international film festivals all over the country, but they usually only show one or two movies from Poland,” Moscicki says. He screened his first film at CPFF in 2005 and hopes to show his documentary about Polish immigrants at a future fest. “I want the Polish and American community to better know each other,” he says of his doc. “I am part of the Polish community, and as a filmmaker, I want to hear what people outside of the community think.”