aka Joanna Broniewska-Kozicka
Joanna Kozicka started working in film production before she turned twenty years old. Her first role in film was that of an assistant at the shoot of Jan Rybkowski’s (1912-1987) feature, The Lonely House/Dom na pustkowiu(1949), which the same year was screened in competition at the Venice Film Festival.
To develop her interests in filmmaking, Kozicka then travelled to Paris to undertake a film course at the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies (IDHEC) where she also directed her first short documentaries.
Both her formal film education and her subsequent involvement in the making of Joris Ivens’ (1898-1989) Friendship Triumphs/ Freundschaft Siegt (1952) set the direction for her future career.
Upon her return home, Kozicka received her diploma from the Film School in Łódź and joined the Documentary Film Studio in Warsaw in 1951. Not only did she have the documentary skills, but also the experience in propaganda film that made her an ideal match for the socialist realist film culture of Poland after the Congress in Wisła.
Her first archive-based documentary film made for the Studio in Warsaw, Paris Commune/Komuna Paryska (1951) aimed at inspiring audiences to follow the impeccable Communist leaders from the past.
Once Kozicka turned her camera to more contemporary subjects, she opted for idealistic representations of the Communist social project that was still in the process of rising in the war-torn country.
Just like other socialist realist documentaries, her next two films, In the Youth Palace/W Pałacu Młodzieży (1952) and The Storming Brigade/Brygada zaczyna szturm (1953) echoed the praises of Communism.
With Newspeak voice-over narrators and carefully selected pictures of dedicated workers and their children, both films aimed to promote a sense of belonging and value for the working class. They lured the viewer with inspirational imagery of achievement and comfort or the new possibilities of social advancement.
Kozicka’s portrayals of everyday life under the regime served as greeting cards for the government. However, they also evidenced her mastery of documentary film tactics.
Setting her camera at mundane locations such as industrial building sites and culture centres for children, she developed convincing characters and created enough narrative tension to engage her viewers.
We can only guess what her documentary films would have become a few years later when socialist realism disappeared from the country’s film landscape. Her career tragically ended in September 1954, when she was found dead in her flat in Warsaw in the midst of a scandalous love affair with writer Bohdan Czeszko (1923-1988). It was never confirmed that she had indeed committed suicide. She left behind her husband Stefan and her daughter Ewa.
Today Kozicka is better known as the beloved daughter of the famous Communist poet, Władysław Broniewski (1897-1962) who, after losing his only child, was for a short time was hospitalised in a mental institution. Then he dedicated seventeen poems to his everlasting grief. These were published in 1956 in a booklet titled Anka.
At the time of her death, Kozicka was developing her new poetic documentary film. Together with her father, she was in pre-production of new project with the working title By the Bank of the Vistula/Brzegiem Wisły. It was to be a three-part lyrical story, in which the eponymous river served as a metaphor for the history of the nation.
Not only was Kozicka’s death at such a young age a blow to Broniewski, but also to Polish cinema. Having completed only three films at the Documentary Film Studio, she nevertheless demonstrated her ability to beautifully tell diverse screen stories with the use of archives, observational shots and re-enacted sequences.