ZINEBI –  International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao, organised by Bilbao Town Hall, has awarded the first of its Mikeldi of Honour Awards for the 64th edition to Warsaw scriptwriter and director Agnieszka Holland, for maintaining her committed contemplation of individual freedoms throughout a complete and combative trajectory, which has documented the major changes in the History of Europe: from her beginnings in Gomułka and Gierek’s Communist Poland to her more recent work in the United States, the Czech Republic or contemporary Poland.

Writer of prolific, rich and heterogeneous works, the director grew up in a family of intellectuals of Jewish origin (on her father’s side), and Catholics (on her mother’s). She studied at the leading Film and TV School (FAMU) in what used to be Czechoslovakia. There she was involved in the Prague Spring student strikes in 1968 before graduating in 1971. On her return she found a niche to direct films for the state television network TVP, and was assistant director to Krzysztof Zanussi.

Along with her contemporaries such as Krzysztof Kieslowski or Janusz Kijowski she was one of the founders of the Cinema of moral disquiet” movement in the late seventies and early eighties. Her contributions to the movement included films such as Provincial actors (Aktorzy prowincjonalni, 1978), which won an award at Cannes; and the film that will be shown at the next ZINEBI, The Lonely Woman (Kobieta samotna, 1981), which could not be screened in Poland until six years later.

Agnieszka Holland. Mikeldi de Honor / Mikeldi of Honour Award. ZINEBI 64 (2022). © Jacek Poremba


The tireless Holland was forced into exile from her own country in the eighties. Poland, however, was a feature of many of the films she made in the course of a successful international career, including three Oscar nominations and titles such as Angry Harvest (Bittere Ernte, 1985), To Kill a Priest, 1988, Europa, Europa (1990), Olivier, Olivier (1992) or Total Eclipse, 1995). After the last-named – on a script by Christopher Hampton, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and David Thewlis – she embarked upon a long and fructiferous relationship with the US film industry with feature films such as Washington Square (1997), The Third Miracle, 1999 or Copying Beethoven (2006), along with episodes for television series such as The Wire (in 2004, 2006 and 2008), The Killing (2011-2012), House of Cards (in 2015 and 2017), The Affair (2017) or The First (2018), giving her the chance to direct, among others, actors such as Ed Harris, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anne Heche, Dominic West, Robin Wright, Kevin Spacey or Sean Penn.

She is currently president of the European Film Academy (EFA) and, after combining films and series in her native Poland, the Czech Republic and the United States, she is now making preparations for her next project, with the provisional title Kafka.


By way of a tribute to the director collecting the Honorary Mikeldi Award, ZINEBI 64 is arranging a public event with Agnieszka Holland, which will include a screening of her film The Lonely Woman (Kobieta samotna, 1981).

Holland will collect the Honorary Mikeldi Award at the Arriaga Theatre on Friday 11 November during the opening ceremony of the 64th ZINEBI Festival, which will continue until 18 November.