Description: Life is a Dream in Cinema - Pola Negri documentary

Before Dietrich and Garbo, there was Pola Negri. 


Description: Life is a Dream in Cinema: Pola Negri (2006) lobby card

Life is a Dream in Cinema: Pola Negri

Directed by Mariusz Kotowski

Featuring interviews with Hayley Mills, Eli Wallach, A.C. Lyles, Alfred Allan Lewis, Jeanine Basinger, Anthony Slide, Emily Leider, David Gasten, Scott Eyman

Narrated by Cyndi Williams

Produced by Heidi Hutter / Bright Shining City Productions

Running time: 89 minutes


Large Version of Lobby Card (2267 x 3275 at 72 dpi)
Press Release (.Doc File) announcing the DVD release of Life is a Dream in Cinema

About the Documentary

The legendary film star Pola Negri makes her triumphant return to screen in Life is a Dream in Cinema,a feature-length documentary examining the Life and work of the celebrated actress.  


The poster in the DVD/poster package that features the Life is a Dream in Cinema DVD.

Pola Negri's place in cinema history cannot be underestimated, as she was the beginning of many firsts in the movies.  This list of accomplishments includes popularizing European films in the United States, opening the way for international film artists in Hollywood, popularizing fashions that are with us to this day, and broadening the expression of sex on the screen.  She is also remembered for her off-screen love affairs with Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino and, in fact, was Valentino’s lover at the time of this premature death in 1926.

Life is a Dream in Cinema:Pola Negri brings the story of this great actress back to Life with clips of her films, photographs of the star from throughout her Life, recollections of the people who knew her, and interviews with people who have made a study of her Life and times. The film made its screen debut in 2006, and has been shown in prestigious venues such as La Cinémathèque Française in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. 

Actors Hayley Mills and Eli Wallach, both well-known film stars in their own right, performed with Pola in The Moon-spinners (1964), her final film, and appear in the documentary.  Many other experts in their fields shared a wealth of knowledge and insights about Pola, including: Professor Jeanine Basinger, author of Silent Stars; A.C. Lyles, producer for Paramount Pictures; Alfred Allan Lewis, ghostwriter of Memoirs of a Star, Pola's autobiography; Emily Leider, author of Rudolph Valentino biography Dark Lover; Anthony Slide, film historian; David Gasten, webmaster of The Pola Negri Appreciation Site; and Scott Eyman, author of  Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise.

Review of Life is a Dream in Cinema documentary

by David Gasten

After four years of festival screenings, including high-profile appearances at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Pola Negri’s own documentary, Life is a Dream in Cinema has finally made it to DVD as part of a DVD/poster package! The wait has been long, but it has been worth it.

Life is a Dream in Cinema is lovingly produced and directed by independent film director Mariusz Kotowski. Kotowski began his career as a dancer and dance choreographer before transitioning into directing movies. Kotowski's award-winning films like Esther’s Diary and Deeper and Deeper have progressively earned him respect because their portrayals are decidedly atypical of the standard Hollywood or indie fare, and cleverly mix different film approaches into a cohesive whole.  Life is a Dream in Cinema is a fitting opener for a rare director who truly is following in the footsteps of the classic-era stars and directors he idolizes, and creating a recognizably unique body of work in a era when when it seems as though everything has already been done.

Life is a Dream in Cinema opens with narrator Cyndi Williams recalling the magic of classic era movie stars, as portraits of these stars flash on the screen. The portraits then move to the silent era, and then zero in on Pola the Star. Pola’s role as a star remains the theme throughout the movie. As the movie rolls on, Pola’s star becomes more personal and loveable, but remains larger-than-Life as it always was. She is a star, but a star that you can reach out and touch with your hand-and a star you can fall in love with.

Life is a Dream in Cinema takes the role of a black-and-white movie that dissolves into color from time to time before returning to its black-and-white home base. There is even a filmed Tango scene in which three tangoing couples dancing to Pola’s “Tango Notturno” (the title track of one of her German talkie movies) remains in black and white in keeping with the rest of the movie. Life is a Dream in Cinema also features black and white clips from a number of Pola Negri’s movies. Even though the source material of these prints varies in quality and a great number of them are not as strong as they could be, they still convey Pola’s adorably human and yet larger-than-Life presence regardless of the source quality of the material.

Probably one of the best findings presented in Life is a Dream in Cinema is Pola’s correct birth date, which had been debated and uncertain for many years. Director Kotowski was born and raised in Poland, and currently lives in the United States. He used his familiarity with both cultures to his advantage by researching Polish language sources in Warsaw and Pola’s birth city of Lipno in Poland. This led him to uncovering Pola Negri's Polish birth certificate, which is shown in the documentary and reveals a birth date of January 3, 1897. The initial belief was that she may have been born on December 31 of 1894 or 1897, and even we at had reported the incorrect 1894 date.  Life is a Dream in Cinema settles the date once and for all, eliminating the need for any further debate on the subject. In addition to a look at Pola’s birth certificate, we get to see her parents’ marriage certificate, the Imperial Ballet academy in Poland where Pola studied dance and acting, and the places where Pola lived and stayed throughout her Life.

The two dramatic portions of the film, the tango and the rose petal sequences, are shot in an exquisite way that recalls the glamour of the classic era of movie making. The “rose petal story” from Pola’s affair with Rudolph Valentino that Pola tells in her autobiography Memoirs of a Star (1970) is one of the most remembered stories from that book. When film historian William K. Everson wrote his original review of the book for the New York Times in 1970, he mentioned, “Valentino may…strew their bed with [rose] blossoms--but Miss Negri maintains a discreet slow-fade-out-slow-fade-in device in describing their nights of bliss.” Life is a Dream in Cinema recreates the visual of the rose petals on the bed, with Memoirs of a Star’s ghostwriter retelling the story. Like the book, the movie’s recreation also lets the viewer’s mind fill in the details.

The biggest upside of the movie is the extensive recollections of the legendary actors Hayley Mills and Eli Wallach, who both appeared with Pola in the 1964 Disney movie The Moon-Spinners. Pola’s scene-stealing appearance in that movie was filmed over the course of two weeks in London, and both actors appeared with Pola in that final onscreen appearance. Although the two actors’ experience with Pola was brief, the strength of Pola’s star seemed to even dwarf their own stars, and the experience of working with Pola left an indelible impression on both of them. This documentary is the only place you will get to hear them retell that fascinating story, which alone makes the documentary worth the purchase price.

Pola’s legacy has fallen into incredibly good hands with Mariusz Kotowski and the Life is a Dream in Cinema documentary. When Kotowski was working on the documentary, he told me that he felt almost as if Pola were keeping him accountable from beyond the grave to treat her legacy well. His love for Pola has guided him in presenting a documentary that openly adores and respects Pola as an actress and as a lady. Kotowski does not deify Pola, nor does he revel in scandal-mongering “you can’t libel the dead” deconstructionism.  Life is a Dream in Cinema works not only as a great crash course for learning about the great actress, but also place where you can get to know Pola and fall in love with her yourself.

About the Director:


Director, Bright Shining City Productions 

Mariusz Kotowski is an award-winning director whose credits include the films Deeper and Deeper and Esther's Diary.  The Polish-born director completed  Life is a Dream in Cinema:Pola Negri in 2006, investing three years of work and a considerable personal fortune into bringing this documentary to the screen.  His production company, Bright Shining City Productions, can be reached at:


List of Previous Screenings:




April 29, 2006

Los Angeles, CA

Laemmle's Sunset 5 Theatre, Seventh Annual Polish Film Festival of Los Angeles (World Premiere)

April 2006

Houston, TX

WorldFest Houston – Special Jury Remi Award

Sept. 18, 2006
Sept. 24, 2006

New York, NY

Museum of Modern Art, "Pola Negri: Life is a Dream in Cinema" Film Festival, (East Coast premiere, sold out);  Sept. 18th screening introduced by the director and actor Eli Wallach 

Oct. 15, 2006

Atlanta, GA

Dixie Film Festival – "Best Documentary Film" Award

November 4-19, 2006         

Chicago, IL     

18th Polish Film Festival in America in conjunction with the Chicago Silent Film Society  – Pola Negri Retrospective

Dec. 5, 2006


TVP1 broadcast, 10:50 pm (actually a 35 minute report about the documentary and the September 2006 MoMA screenings entitled Pola Negri - życie jest marzeniem; this report included clips from the documentary itself)

July 22-28, 2007

Wroclaw, Poland

Era New Horizon International Film Festival

July 2007

Krakauer Haus, Germany

Exhibit of poster and film Pola Negri: Life is a Dream in Cinema

September 2007   

Austin, TX

Austin Film Society special screening of Pola Negri: Life is a Dream in Cinema

Oct. 12, 2007

Katowicach, Poland

Pola Negri Film Festival

December 2007

Warsaw, Poland

Polish film archives, and special screening

December 7-9, 2007

South Padre Island, TX

South Padre Island Film Festival

April 2008

Cleveland, OH

Special screening

May 2008

Albany, NY

Screening in theater for Pola Negri fans

July 30, 2008

Lodzi, Poland

Pola Negri Legend Film – Pola Negri exhibit of poster and film at the Museum Cinematography

November 7, 2008

Austin, TX

3rd Austin Polish Film Festival – Screening of Pola Negri: Life is a Dream in Cinema at the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin

December 10-13, 2009

Krakow, Poland

Krakow Silent Film Festival


Bratislave, Slovakia

Slovakian première of film and poster exhibit of Pola Negri


Los Angeles, CA

Film Award – Gold - EMPixx Award

Apr. 12, 2010

Paris, France

La Cinémathèque Françiase (French première; part of five-day Pola Negri screening series) 

May 28-30, 2010

Lipno, Poland  
(Pola's birth city)

Lipno Film Retrospective Pola Negri