Józef Hen



Józef Hen – an outstanding writer, screenwriter, and film director was born on 8 November 1923 in the Warsaw Jewish family as Józef Henryk Cukier. He debuted at the age of 9 years in the periodical published by Janusz Korczak, the famous Small Review. He grew up in Muranów part of Warsaw. In November 1939 he got through to the Soviet Union, first staying in Lviv, and after the outburst of the German-Soviet war – in Samarkanda (Uzbekistan). He described the war reality in the Soviet Union in 1957, in his novel Nobody’s Calling, which waited for publication 33 years – it was finally published after the fall of the communist regime, in 1990.


His major literary works include Nowolipie, describing the life of the Warsaw district, which is so dear to Józef Hen, Battle of the Goat’s Manor, Resistance, or novels published in the recent years: The Clown – a Great Man (biography of Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński) and My Friend the King (it tells the story of St. August Poniatowski). A number of Józef Hen’s novels were adapted into films; directors also often used the screenplays written by the writer. At the end of the fifties Witold Berestowski made a film based on Hen’s screenplay debut, Rancho Texas, which was an attempt to create “Polish western”, with Bogusz Bilewski playing the main character. In the following years, Hen’s scenarios were used in such films as: The Cross of Valor (debut of Kazimierz Kutz as a film director), April directed by Witold Lesiewicz, The Law and the Fist by Jerzy Hoffman and Edward Skórzewski, with Gustaw Holoubek perfectly playing his part, Don Gabriel by Ewa and Czesław Petelski. In the later years several series were made based on Hen’s screenplays: Life of Kamil Kurant directed by Grzegorz Warchoł, Royal Dreams about the rule of Jagiellonian dynasty in Poland with main part played by Gustaw Holoubek, or adventurous Crimen with Bogusław Linda playing the main character (directed by Laco Adamík).


Józef Hen is also the author of the screenplay for Jerzy Hoffman’s An Ancient Tale based on the novel by J.I. Kraszewski, and the author of several theater plays, e.g. I, Michal from Montaigne (directed by G. Warchoł) with a fantastic show of the art of acting by Holoubek and Joanna Trzepiecińska) or The Trifle directed by Tomasz Zygadło. Hen also directed the series called Pearls and Ducats.


In his works Józef Hen often deals with the theme of reviewing the past of his characters and describes their attempts to accommodate in a new, post-wart reality. He always puts stress on the ethic sphere of his novels and films and clearly shows his characters’ attempts to behave in a honorable way (e.g. April, Nobody’s Calling, The Law and the Fist).


The second line of author’s interests is historical novels and screenplays describing Poland at the times of the Piast, Jagiellonian, or Saxon dynasties.


He was awarded many times, he was decorated with the Cross of Valor, a Golden Medal “Gloria Artis” and the Commander Cross with the Star of Polonia Restituta Order.


From the very beginning of IFF Jewish Motifs he has been the member of the Honorary Committee. This is one more reason to invite you to participate in the retrospective of Józef Hen’s films and in the meeting with him; both events coincide with the jubilee of Józef Hen’s 90th birthday.


Meeting with Józef Hen will be held on Saturday, 27 April, at 19.00, in Muranów cinema (Zbyszek). Tomasz Piątek will conduct conversation with the writer. Join us!


The partner of the event is W.A.B. publishing house


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