Agnieszka Holland
Agnieszka Holland @ Jacek Poremb

Agnieszka Holland

I am fascinated by the fate of men and women imprisoned for political, social, or historical reasons.

A leading figure in Polish cinema, Agnieszka Holland is a film-maker captivated by the politics and recent history of Europe. While she uses cinema to preserve memory, her work on series lets her explore a groundbreaking reality. 

Updated on 10/01/2022

5 min

A daughter of journalists, Agnieszka Holland is a scriptwriter and film-maker born in Warsaw in 1948. Due to the political situation in Poland, she was forced to move to Prague to study cinema. Graduating from F.A.M.U. (Prague film academy) in 1971, she returned to her native country to begin work. 

Close to Krzysztof Kieslowski, she collaborated on the script for his Three Colours trilogy (1993) and lent her pen to her friend Andrzej Wajda, the great Polish film-maker, for the scripts of Without Anaesthesia (1978) and Danton (1983). Simultaneously, she made her first feature-length film, Screen Tests (1977), but would become widely known at Cannes when Provincial Actors (1979) won the International Critics Prize in 1980. She had made her place in film. 

While Agnieszka Holland first proved herself with Polish productions, she continued her work in France with To Kill a Priest (1988) then Europa Europa (1990), one of her greatest successes. Drawn to true stories and characters with sealed fates who fight to survive, her work reflects her Jewish and Catholic roots in an often-political way. Historical dramas, fantasy films, biopics… Hollywood wasn’t long in welcoming her and saw her work with renowned actors, from Maggie Smith in The Secret Garden (1993) to Leonardo DiCaprio in Total Eclipse (1995), and Diane Kruger in Copying Beethoven (2013). A modern and progressive film-maker, Agnieszka Holland is also involved in series – confident of their power to change mindsets – and has made episodes of The Wire, House of Cards, and Cold Case

Nominated for 3 Oscars and awarded a Golden Globe in 1991 for Europa, Europa, Agnieszka Holland has an international career that sees her sharing her time between Poland, France, and the United States. Her career’s international dimension also helps the Polish film-maker to attract more funding and to work on evermore accomplished films, such as Mr Jones (2019), selected for the official competition at the Berlin International Film Festival. While Agnieszka Holland’s films are regularly showcased in the biggest European film festivals, from Cannes to Berlin, the film-maker also garners critical praise in the world of American series. Drawing on this experience, she became a member of the Séries Mania Jury in 2017, further cementing her reputation in France. 


  • 1948


    Agnieszka Holland is born in Warsaw to a family of intellectuals.

  • 1980


    Her first feature-length film, Provincial Actors, wins the International Critics Prize at Cannes.

  • 1981


    Agnieszka Holland leaves Poland and works in France and the United States.

  • 1985


    Her film Angry Harvest is nominated for Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

  • 2019


    Mr Jones is released in cinemas.

  • 2020


    Charlatan, her latest film, is selected at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The Institut français and the filmmaker

Europa Europa by Agnieszka Holland is part of the first 10 films of European Film Factory, European platform for film education launched by the Institut français in september 2020. 

Find out more about European Film Factory


With European Film Factory and some others programmes, since 2015 the Institut français has been running European cooperation projects, co-financed by the European Union, in which it promotes its internal expertise and, more broadly, French cultural engineering at an international level. 

Learn more about European cooperation at the Institut français 

L'institut français, LAB