CULTURE

Dorota Kedzierzawska: In the Polish tradition

Dorota Kedzierzawska was born in 1957 in Lodz, Poland, and was introduced to the world of cinema from an early age, tagging along behind her director mother, Jadwiga Kedzierzawska. Kedzierzawska turns her lens on troubled and abused children, offsetting the harshness of reality with the innocence of the youngsters’ own perception of it and the strength that allows them to rise above their tough backgrounds. Among the six films that comprise the Thessaloniki International Film Festival’s tribute to Kedzierzawska is her first feature film «Diably, Diably» (Devils, Devils) from 1991 and «Jestem» (I Am) from 2005, which earned her a Best Feature Film award at Berlin. «Devils, Devils» sets the action in the Polish provinces during the 1960s, when a group of Gypsies who have set up camp near a village awaken the prejudices of the locals but prompt 13-year-old Mala to explore her identity as a girl crossing the threshold to womanhood. In «I Am,» Kedzierzawska addresses inequality in her story about a boy who, unwanted by his own mother, takes his life into his own hands and is introduced to a new world of ease through his friendship with a girl who comes from a wealthy family, but also faces her own brand of rejection. Kedzierzawska will be in Thessaloniki from December 7-12 to present her work and to answer the audience’s questions after the screenings of her films. A lot of your work focuses on disadvantaged children. What is your connection to them? I spent my entire childhood on film sets. I would often spend hours standing in a corner, watching what was going on in front of the camera. And it was usually children who were standing in front of the camera, since my mother (who regretfully is no longer professionally active) directed films for children and about children. That is where I learned the techniques of working with kids on a film set. My later choices in screenplay topics were not planned; the stories of children simply always tend to draw my attention. When I was in film school, my first two films (a documentary short and a feature short) were about children, and filmed with children. I still think that one of the most important things to an adult should be maintaining a childlike interest in life and childlike honesty. I hope that the stories I tell are not only stories about children, but simply stories about people. What are some of the other overall themes, such as feminism, for example, which you want to put across in your work? I never really identified myself with any particular theme or ideology, much like I was never a member of any party or movement. I feel rather separate; I set out my own path. That is probably why I try to see each of my characters as a one-of-a-kind human being who is just trying to find their place in life, find their way among the rules forced upon them by the community. My character is «the other one,» who to me is most important. Life (both real and on-screen) is too ambiguous and complex, too interesting to be put in the hands of movements that have simple answers for everything. How has cinema-making in Poland changed over the past few years, and especially since the country joined the European Union? A few years ago the Polish Film Institute was launched. After a period of time that had been very difficult for Polish filmmaking (when a maximum of 10 films were being made each year), the newly established Polish Film Institute helped put Polish cinema back onto its feet. Thanks to the institute, more films are being produced, and it is easier to find funding. Naturally, it is easier to find cooperating partners in Europe and elsewhere (co-production opportunities, for instance). But what will always be most important is the creators, their personalities and talent. You either have it or you don’t. You were educated at one of the world’s most respected film schools. Do you feel that you are carrying on the traditions of Polish cinema as forged at the Lodz National Film School or have you created your own tradition? I never thought about whether what I do goes with the traditions of the Polish school of cinema or not. I leave that to be assessed by others. There are many exceptional examples of the Polish school of cinema: films we were raised on, films we admired, films that undoubtedly influenced us in one way or another. But it was certainly never my intention to copy anyone (there is a big difference between admiration and copying). What I see as a key factor is that my film expression should be an honest look at the world around me. And it has to be my world, as seen through my eyes. Regardless of whether someone likes it or not. How do you see the future of Polish cinema? Any new talents that you have been paying special attention to? It is very difficult to make judgments in this area. As I’ve said, everything depends on talent and personality. Of course, the more films that are being produced, the greater the chances of finding talented young filmmakers. One worth mentioning is certainly Marek Lechki, whose second film, «Erratum,» I saw very recently. Lechki is an attentive observer. He talks about his characters in a way that is subtle, modest, and deeply moving. There is something exceptional emanating from the screen; something that can only be created by people who are really in love with cinema.