Turowski Wins Anderson Foundation Award

Kamil Turowski, a filmmaker born and reared in Poland, received the Sherwood Anderson Foundation Award on November 21, 1998, at the annual conference of the North Carolina Writers’ Network in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Born in the city of Lódz´, pronounced “woodj,” and hence nicknamed “HollyLódz´, because of the concentration of the Polish movie industry there, Turowski grew up exploring what he calls a polluted, grim, post-industrial region that his wife, Kasia Marciniak, refers to as a “land of darkness and obscurity.”
Forced by the political persecutions and regulations of martial law under the Communists in the early 1980s to remain in Lódz´, he took intellectual refuge at the University of Lódz´. As a student of the department of English philology, among British and American books and magazines that were inaccessible to the Polish public at large because of censorship, he completed his master’s thesis on the American non-fiction novel, “The New Journalism,” in the United States, and received a master’s of arts degree in 1989.

By that time, Turowski’s interests in visual narratives, which he had developed while writing and publishing the periodical Oko (means eye) single-handedly, had gained new ground at the National School of Film in Lódz´. There, as a student in the Cinematography Department, which was established and maintained by the state to promote socialist ideas among the masses, he used photographs to interpret some of the American texts he had studied at the University.

The still photography series, “The Road Not Taken,” transplanted Robert Frost’s classic poem from the rural United States of the turn of the century to the milieu of a modern television studio, winning the honor of the Best Still Photography Project at the School in 1990.

Two years later, Turowski’s film adaptation of Sherwood Anderson’s short story “Nobody Knows” from the collection Winesburg, Ohio received equally high praise. This interpretation in the black and white 35 mm. format transferred the literary representation of Anderson’s tale to the actual streets, courtyards, and buildings of what Turowski calls “the frighteningly devastated textures of the city of Lódz´, where smiles and happiness are seen as rarely as in the fictitious Winesburg, Ohio.”

Turowski and his wife first moved to Missoula, Montana, then later to Eugene, Oregon, where he presented his first film before the American public at the International Film Festival in 1994. A year later, the next screening of the film, at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, helped Turowski win a two-year scholarship from the Kociuszko Foundation in New York, and admission into the AFI graduate Cinematography Program. Turowski continued his still photography and literary projects. His photograph “The Spirit of the Gate” depicts what he call a metaphysical “possession” of an old courtyard gate, and it won him the Mayor’s Award for the Best Photograph of the Year 1996 in Eugene. The same year, Oxford University Press and Bloomsbury published the first editions of Turowski’s Polish-to-English translation of a testimony from the Holocaust, The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lódz´ Ghetto.

Turowski graduated from the American Film Institute with a degree of Master of Fine Arts in June 1998. The Sherwood Anderson Foundation awarded him the Grant as a recognition of the originality of his film adaptation of “Nobody Knows” and as a way to support his ambitious intention to bring the entire book of Winesburg, Ohio, to the silver screen. In fall of 1998, Turowski and his wife, Kaisa, moved their primary residence from Oregon to Athens, Ohio, where Kasia began her work as a Professor of Transnational Literature at Ohio University.

In addition to his work on the adaptation of Winesburg, Ohio, at least part of which he would like to see shot in his native Lódz´, Turowski is developing a photographic project, called Eastern European Visage, and an original feature movie script.