Valan’s pulpy policier world slowly turns exploitative towards its characters while following the formulaic story of Péter, a strong-willed cop caught in a difficult sex trafficking investigation in Brasov.
A series of flashbacks in a typical school in Romania during the Revolution in 1989 announce that Péter’s sister has disappeared in the chaos of the insurgencies. Indelicately, Bagota employs these traumatic memories of losing a sibling to make sure the viewer clearly understands Péter’s ensuing motives of getting involved in cases of kidnapping and human trafficking – a way to cope with his sister’s abduction and potential death by trying to save other women’s lives. While Péter’s uncle, János (András Hatházi), owns a suicide hotline through which he helps numerous women, the director only chooses to display the clichés of such an environment – showing for instance János emphatically answering the phone while grabbing a bible and praying for the unfortunate damsel in distress. Péter’s aunt, Kati, suffers from Alzheimer’s but in the film’s ultra-structured convention, her character doesn’t have a specific role, besides adding a sprinkle of unnecessary drama. The way Valan oversimplifies issues like Alzheimer’s disease and suicidal tendencies is without a doubt problematic.
Ultimately, Valan is very reminiscent of Porumboiu’s La Gomera – another exploitation policier film with, fortunately, more self-aware ambitions – which actually pokes fun at its own genre and yet keeps a lid on its ironic perspective. While La Gomera seems to never take itself too seriously, Valan expects viewers to accept a story of women in constant need of saving, be it by the alpha male cop or the villain himself.
Kult – the iconic Polish rock band – was founded in 1982 by Kazik Staszewski and Piotr Wieteska. Olga Bieniek condenses 217 hours of footage, including the band’s private meetings and conversations, into a two-hour touching love letter to their fans. The film features everything from concert footage with Kult's most well-known tracks to insights into the band members’ intimate moments of reflection on life, their fans, friends and career. Long-time fan and friend of Kazik Staszewski, Bieniek tries to find the true selves of Kult’s members. Kult. Film premiered this week at Warsaw International Film Festival and participants of the FIPRESCI Critics Workshop spoke to the director about it.
FIPRESCI Young Critics: Kult seems like such a tightly knit musical group. How was the process of getting them to feel comfortable with the camera?
Olgda Bieniek: The key answer here is that I’ve been a friend of theirs for many years. They’ve been playing together for maybe more than 38 years and I’ve known Kazik, the lead singer, for 17 years. We have sleepovers at each other’s houses. I’ve also known the rest of the band for a long time, so this is a different type of approach – of trying to get closer, to reveal their true selves. I’m also doing a lot of shooting on my phone when I’m in private with them and they’re used to that. So it’s not like this big film crew is coming over to invade their privacy.
F: Was it difficult to collect the live footage?
O: Not at all. The only thing is that it took six years.
F: Do you work with a screenplay?
O: Yes, I had that. For the first month; then it was gone. I used to do the band's feature movies and that’s all scripted. You know what everything is doing and wearing and what is around them. But in documentaries you need to know what you want to display on the screen and then find it. You need a little bit more patience and you need to avoid trying to force it happening.
F: Do you think they’re showing off to the camera at points?
O: No, I don’t feel that. I hope they don’t. I know them personally and I don’t feel they were acting. They actually seemed to have forgotten about the camera. I’m also producing their show features and we’ve done 60 of them by now. The first time, they’re like, “Oh, don’t say too much, Olga’s filming us”. But then they slowly forgot the presence of the camera. I didn’t want to fake anything, to have people thinking that there’s something fishy about the movie that it’s not real. I never gave them indications.
F: You said that you’ve been shooting this film for more than six years. Were there any scenes that you really liked that didn’t make it to the final cut?
O: Many. I have around 217 hours of footage, that’s a lot. 217 hours of material shot by us and around 50 hours of archival footage. It’s what I’ve collected from people’s private shelves. Much of the stuff in there belongs to the band members. Nothing is bought from television and it was first shown in this film. It took one year and a half to complete the final cut and that’s the 6th version of it.
You have to be patient to make this kind of film because of the amount of footage you have to skim through. So, yeah, there are many scenes I would have loved to add but I have to separate what I love about them and focus on what the audience wants to see.
F: Are you planning to show the film outside of Poland?
O: Of course. There are already some people interested in it in Ireland and Scotland, for now.
But we will see. Firstly, it will go to the regular cinema distribution in Poland.
F: What was the band’s reaction to the film?
O: When I was talking with Kazik about the film he got a bit nervous because he’s very shy – I never understood that because there are hundreds of books about him in Poland. But I told him that if he wanted, he’d be the first one to watch the film. I told him that I will do my thing and then he could “have the rights” to the final cut if he wanted. And then I showed it to him and he was deeply touched. However, the piano player, Piotr, asked me what is so interesting about the private footage. There were some shots of him cutting cabbage, I think. He said, "It’s just cooking. Nobody will go to the cinema. I said “It might not be interesting for you, Piotr, but you’ve been doing this for 40 years. But people – your fans – could find it very interesting”.