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”.
FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Lemana Filandra is a writer and editor at "Klifhenger" (www.klifhenger.com), a site dedicated to movie analyses in Bosnian and English. She has been working as a freelance writer, a researcher, and a translator for the last three years. Currently, She is working on a PhD thesis in philosophy, focused on intersectional feminism and political implications of the concept of body. In the past she had different professional engagements at Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the most prominent European festivals. She also worked as a producer of a music video, a script supervisor and an assistant to a movie director.
Levan Tskhovrebadze is a student of film studies in Ilia State University, Georgia. He has written and made other kind of journalistic content for Georgian outlets like Indigo, Cinemania.ge or Demo.ge. Recently he started working for Ilia State University online publication Cinexpress.iliauni.edu.ge where he writes reviews, articles and also translates some of the important articles or interviews about cinema into Georgian. He has covered few festivals as a film critic. He was doing video blogs for Berlin International Film Festival 2019th edition and has made some content at CinéDOC-Tbilisi and Batumi International Art-House Film Festival. Cinexpress is also the Ilia State University’s Film Club where he made public reports before screenings.
Oleksandra Povoroznyk is a film critic and journalist based in Kyiv, Ukraine. She is currently working for Vertigo.com.ua, one of the largest Ukrainian websites devoted to the film industry and entertainment in general. She is also the host of two podcasts about movies and TV.
Denisa Jašová is a PhD student of Audiovisual Studies at Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. As a Film Studies and Archival Science graduate, she specializes on archival research in film and TV history, especially on Czechoslovak amateur film and TV non-fiction programmes from 70s and 80s. She also works as a researcher for TV documentaries, as a librarian in the Central European House of Photography and as a talk show host in student radio talk show called Cinefil. She frequently writes for magazine Film.sk, IFF Cinematik Piešťany and her first paper about the history of Slovak amateur film will be released in October 2019 in Kino-Ikon magazine. She simply loves film archives.
Bogdan Balla is a Romanian experimental film director and freelance film critic based in Bucharest. He studies film directing at the National University of Theatre and Film and writes for FILM MENU. Besides directing and producing his own films, he also works as an independent freelance film critic. He reads bell hooks and is passionate about queer cinema. He has a preference for working with archival footage for his films.
Svetlana Semenchuk is an author of such publications on cinema as “Seanse”, “The Art of Cinema”, “Cinema TV” and other. The author-composer of the books “S. M. Eisenstein: pro et contra: Sergey Eisenstein in national reflection: anthology” and “E. F. Bauer: pro et contra. Eugene Frantsevich Bauer in assessments of contemporaries, colleagues, researchers, film critics. Anthology”. Teacher of the St. Petersburg New Cinema School, and at the St. Petersburg State University of Cinema and Television.
TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Amber Wilkinson is a journalist with more than 20 years experience. She is the co-founder and editorial director of UK-based website Eye For Film. Her byline has appeared in The Times, Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and Filmmaker Magazine among others. She also contributes as a freelance film critic on BBC Radio Scotland. She has run several FIPRESCI young critics' workshops and mentored student critics at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2018 and 2019.
Tommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering film festivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for Berlinale Talents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.