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Preview: Rochester Polish Film Festival 2016 

Co-sponsored by the University of Rochester's Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies, The Rochester Polish Film Festival just completed the first part of its annual event with a screening of Krzysztof Kieślowski's wonderful 10-part series, "The Decalogue." Now the festival returns on Wednesday for part two: five-days of narrative and documentary features that offer a sampling of the best of contemporary Polish cinema. This year's lineup is heavy on historical dramas and docs, and there's plenty to recommend to film fans looking for something outside the usual fare.

The opening night presentation of "11 Minutes" will be held at the Dryden Theatre (900 East Avenue), and each subsequent screening will be at The Little Theatre (240 East Avenue). Tickets are $9 general admission ($7 for students and seniors) and are available at The Little's box office. For more information visit the festival's website at rochester.edu/SKALNY or call the Skalny Center at 275-9898.

Here's a peek at a few of this year's selections, all of which will be shown in Polish with English subtitles.

From esteemed filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski, "11 Minutes" is a ticking-clock thriller which revolves around a collection of seemingly random urbanites whose lives intersect in surprising and potentially disastrous ways. Reportedly inspired by a nightmare the director had, the film is an exercise in virtuosic filmmaking that injects some pointed commentary on our technologically-dependent age. Screens Wednesday, November 2, 7 p.m., at the Dryden Theatre. General admission $8; $6 for members; and $4 for students.

I previously reviewed "The Innocents" back in September when it had a limited theatrical run here, but if you missed the film during its first tour through Rochester, it's well worth your time. The story follows a young, French Red Cross doctor (Lou de Laâge) who, while assisting survivors of the German camps of World War II, discovers that several nuns at the nearby convent are in advanced stages of pregnancy following a brutal assault by Soviet soldiers. It sounds bleak, but in director Anne Fontaine's capable hands, the story ultimately becomes a surprisingly hopeful examination of faith. (Thursday, November 3, 7 p.m.)

In the darkly humorous "Eccentrics, The Sunny Side of the Street," a former soldier in WWII (Maciej Stuhr) returns from London to his Polish homeland in the late 1950's with the burning desire to form a swing band. He gains support from some local oddballs and amateur musicians as they gradually come together to jump, jive, and wail. It's an entertaining tale filled with plenty of great period jazz tunes. (Friday, November 4, 7 p.m.)

The fascinating documentary "Generations" uses snippets of almost 50 Polish films to tell the story of the country's past, as the clips weave a narrative that illustrates the ways in which cinema can both influence and reflect history. (Saturday, November 5, 3 p.m.)

A number of strong performances anchor "Siberian Exile," a stirring war drama which begins in 1939, as Soviet soldiers round up the Poles, Ukrainians, and Jewish people from their villages and deport them to a labor camp in Siberia. A Q&A session with director Janusz Zaorski will follow the film. (Saturday, November 5, 7 p.m.)

Shining a spotlight on the unsung heroes of the No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron, "303" combines archival footage and interviews with the children and surviving members of the force. While the presentation can be a bit dry at times, the subject is still always compelling. The feature will be preceded by the short, "History in Moving Pictures: The Introduction of Christianity A.D. 965." (Sunday, November 6, 3 p.m.)

Co-presented with the Rochester International Jewish Film Festival, the fascinating documentary "Karski & The Lords of Humanity" tells the true story of spy and diplomat Jan Karski, who provided crucial information to the Allied powers about Nazi crimes against the Jews of Europe. The screening will be followed by a talk with director Slawomir Grünberg. (Sunday, November 6, 7 p.m.)

The crowd-pleasing "Planet Single" is a modern romantic comedy about an unlucky in love music teacher (Agnieszka Wiedlocha) who reluctantly agrees to let a boorish celebrity television host (Maciej Stuhr again) use her dating exploits as fodder for his popular talk show. A number of romantic ties are forged and dissolved as their partnership takes on unexpected new dimensions. Plus there are puppets! (Monday, November 7, 7 p.m.)

Check back on Friday for additional film coverage, including a review of Mel Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge."

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