Agnieszka Piotrowska

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Agnieszka Piotrowska

Agnieszka Piotrowska (born 1968 in Poland) is an author, academic and award-winning filmmaker, probably best known for her 2008 documentary Married to the Eiffel Tower,[1] [2]about women who fall in love with objects."[3]


Piotrowska graduated from Birkbeck, University of London in 2012 with a PhD.[4] Her PhD thesis was the basis of her 2014 book Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary.[5] In 2015 she edited "Embodied Encounters: New Approaches to Psychoanalysis and Cinema".[6] She published two further monographs with Routledge: "Black and White: cinema, politics and the arts in Zimbabwe"(2017) [7] and "The Nasty Woman and the neo femme fatale in contemporary cinema" (2019)[8] as well as essays, chapters and another edited collection on psychoanalysis and culture [9] [10]

Piotrowska lives in London where she has been a Reader in Film Practice and Theory at University of Bedfordshire since 2013.[3][11] In 2017 Piotrowska was shortlisted for the Times Higher Award in the category of Excellence and Innovation in the Arts for her creative work in Zimbabwe.[12]

Professional activity[edit]

In 1993, a series of 12 films were planned on the life and ideas of important philosophers, focusing in particular on the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, produced by Tariq Ali on behalf of Channel Four. Only four scripts were commissioned, Socrates by Howard Brenton, Spinoza by Tariq Ali, Locke by David Edgar and Wittgenstein by Terry Eagleton. Spinoza was filmed and directed by Chris Spencer as Spinoza : The Apostle of Reason. Citizen Locke was filmed and directed by Piotrowska. They were transmitted in the UK as 52 min long television films. Wittgenstein became a full film by Derek Jarman in 1993.[13]

Piotrowska's 1995 BBC documentary Sex, Lies and Jerzy Kosinski,[14][15] about the Polish-American writer who committed suicide in New York, included a rare interview with Roman Polanski. It was nominated for the Arts Documentary Emmy in 1995.[16] Her 1998 Showgirl Stories was less favorably received.[17][18]

She directed two episodes of Channel 4's Cutting Edge, Love Hurts (1999),[19] about domestic violence, and Trapped By My Twin (2007),[20] [21] about twin sisters who are constantly together.

Another Channel 4 documentary directed by Piotrowska, Poker Club,[22] shown on Channel 4 in their Cutting Edge series, was criticized by Victoria Coren in her Poker memoir For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker.[23]

In 2001 Piotrowska did a series of "Self-Portraits" of photographers for the National Geographic Channel, including features on French war photographer Isabel Ellsen,[24] Polish photo journalist Tomasz Tomaszewski [25][26] and Indian fashion photographer Max Vadukul.[27] Another photographer, David Alan Harvey was the subject of Piotrowska's 2002 film for National Geographic Channel's "True Originals" series.[28]

In 2005 Piotrowska completed a feature-length documentary The Bigamists.[29]

In 2006 her documentary Conman With 14 Wives, about international fraudster Oliver Killeen was broadcast on Channel 5.[30] Killeen attempted to stop the broadcast of the documentary but he later changed his mind and even gave permission to Piotrowska to use their correspondence in her academic writing.[31]

In 2009 Piotrowska filmed a one-hour documentary about the Best Job in the World phenomenon, which was the highest-rated show of the week it was broadcast on BBC1. In July 2010 it was shown as part Birkbeck College's Business Week.[32]

Her iconic film "Married to the Eiffel Tower"[33] continues to be screened around the world at different events and conferences[34] as well as on television.[35] It features on-line in blogs[36][37][38][39] and in 2015 was the basis for an MA Thesis at the Central European University (Budapest).[40]


Since November 2012 Piotrowska has embarked upon a series of creative projects in Zimbabwe as part of her ongoing research on post colonial trauma and creative collaborations across cultural, ethnic and gender divides in postcolonial systems. Her work was supported by a grant from the British Council and the Zimbabwean Theatre Association. In 2013 her film The Engagement Party in Harare premiered at the International Images Festival for Women in Zimbabwe and was nominated for Best Documentary Film.[3]

In April 2014 she directed "Lovers in Time", a play by Zimbabwean writer Blessing Hungwe, at the Harare International Festival of the Arts.[41] The play was controversial for its irreverent portrayal of two spirit mediums who are Zimbabwean national heroes.[3][42] Piotrowska made an experimental documentary film out of the events which was completed in 2015. The film entitled "Lovers in Time or how we didn't get arrested in Harare" opened a discussion on freedom of speech and cultural sensitivity and screened internationally. It was praised for its originality and boldness [43]

In October 2014 she presented her short film Flora and Dambudzo, which featured Zimbabwe writer Dambudzo Marechera, at the Zimbabwe International Film Festival to considerable acclaim. This was the first time the iconic Zimbabwean writer's life was presented on film.[44]

In 2016 Piotrowska co-directed a feature film called Escape, an African film noir. The film was previewed at the end of that year and was nominated for the best film at the Zimbabwe International Film Festival, and won awards for the best performances for the leading actor (Eddie Sandifolo) and for the leading actress Nothando Nobengula.[45]It also won an award for its screenplay at the LA neo noir film festival. [46] The film was screened internationally including at the most important festival in Poland, the Gdynia Film Festival in September 2018 where it was very well received. [47] When Escape was selected for the 2017 Zanzibar International Film Festival its screening was banned at the last minute, allegedly for its erotic content, resulting in some media controversies. [48]

In 2018 Piotrowska staged and adapted the play ″Finding Temeraire″ [49] by Stanley Makuwe, an award-winning Zimbabwean playwright, resulting in the experimental film entitled Repented (2019) which explores how political history and external circumstances can profoundly impact an intimate personal relationship. [50] The film has begun to preview at international events. [51] [52]


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  11. ^ "Dr Agnieszka Piotrowska". University of Bedfordshire. Archived from the original on 2015-02-07. Retrieved 2015-02-06.
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  13. ^ Rowland Wymer Derek Jarman, p. 158, at Google Books
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  17. ^ Kelleher, Terry (June 14, 1999). "Picks and Pans Review: Showgirl Stories". People Magazine. 51 (22). Retrieved 2015-02-06. Bottom Line: So-so study of girls, girls, girls
  18. ^ Bianculli, David (June 11, 1999). "'Showgirls' Documentary Isn't All That Revealing". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2015-02-06. Like the onstage demeanor of the women it profiles, Sunday night's two-hour Learning Channel documentary, "Showgirl Stories", is a bit of a tease, and what it presents is more superficial than substantial. ... [An] often meandering and incomplete study.
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  22. ^ BFI entry for Poker Club retrieved May 2011
  23. ^ Coren, Victoria (2010). For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker. McClelland & Stewart. p. 132. ISBN 9780771022944. There is less chat and laughter, more focused concentration. But the quiet is broken when Agnieszka Piotrowska (the director, camera-woman and 'brains' behind the TV documentary) thrusts a microphone towards Catman, who is dealing the cards, and asks whether he bribed the players to attend his tournament. We all look up, shocked. Bribery? Catman is the most shocked of all. He may be a poker player, but a single snide question has transformed him into a mass of tells. Not the tells of a duper, but of one who has been duped. Suddenly, Catman is seeing the whole picture. He isn't the hero of a glamorous TV show. He is the gull of media people hoping to rake scandal and skulduggery from the poker gutter. They want to hear about bribery, not charity. They want to make us all look like crooks. That is the story they came to tell.
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  29. ^ Rosenthal, Alan (2007). Writing, directing and producing documentary films and Videos (4 ed.). Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 978-0-8093-2742-3.
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  31. ^ Piotrowska, Agnieszka (2012). "The conman and I: A case study of transference in documentary". Studies in Documentary Film. 6: 15–28. doi:10.1386/sdf.6.1.15_1. S2CID 145233024.
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  43. ^ “From its opening scene Lovers in Time alerts us to the porous boundaries between documentary and fiction, using the device of “putting on a play” as a lens across which to raise an impressive range of contemporary issues, intertwining colonialism, race, gender, identity with the ‘return of the repressed’, in a tale of love and retribution, forgiveness and the quest for justice, set in today's Harare, among Zimbabwe's educated younger generation. All of it makes Lovers in Time not only a timely political film, but an unusually riveting example of the “essay film”: here understood as a special kind of historical reflexivity, manifesting itself across several layers of subjectivity"
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  47. ^ "the picture is notable for the expressionistic way in which it works to put us in Charles's head-space through dreams, flashbacks, and fantasies. Along with its loving presentation of Zimbabwe, the film's main asset is the very fresh and charming performance of the singer Selmor Mtukudzi here playing Anna, a professional woman who helps Charles out and whose role redefines female "goodness" in terms of spiritual, sexual and financial independence. Mtukudzi's music, featured on the soundtrack, also adds vibrancy to the picture."
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