"YOU HAVE TO BE HUMBLE IF YOU WANT TO MAKE FILMS ABOUT PEOPLE" - INTERVIEW WITH LIDIA DUDA
"Newborn," the latest documentary film by Lidia Duda, was included in the programme of the 58th Krakow Film Festival. We would like to invite you to read the interview with the film's author.
Daniel Stopa: When I typed "Krzysztof Wierzbicki" in the search engine, what I found were numerous videos from the competitions and titles like: "absolute world record holder," "master," "dominator." Then I watch a couple of minutes of "Newborn," and what do I see? Ordinary life, he's chopping wood, his wife is pregnant, she's resting on a lawn chair, they are waiting together for the birth of their child just like an ordinary couple ...
Lidia Duda: Krzysztof lives in the country, in his house there is no showcase with cups, diplomas from competitions, nothing at all which could show you that he is the world champion in powerlifting and the record holder in the so-called deadlift. He does not participate in the rat race in the media, he does not "envelop" himself in his success.
Were you tempted to start the story from the fact that your protagonist is a champion? To set the scene from the very beginning?
Absolutely not, after all, it would be a lie if I started to tell about his victories, started from the fact that he was applauded by Arnold Schwarzenegger during a competition. In this way, I would have copied a superficial cliché. If competitions and victories are not the most important things to Krzysztof, I must take a closer look at his life, understand what is the most important to him. Building a normal home, a normal family - he has never had it and all his effort, since he was sixteen, is directed towards this aim. Had I started from the competition, I would have suggested to the viewers that this is the most important to him, and I would have contradicted the truth.
After the family scenes and the birth of the child, Krzysztof stands on the bridge and we see that the competitions are important to him all the same, and how intensively he experiences them and which emotions accompany him...
You have to ask yourself the question, why does Krzysztof participate in the competitions? For him, sport has become a way of life. Of course, this is how he earns his living, he has the possibility to get a scholarship, but did he have any choice? Did anyone ask Krzysztof whether he wanted to become an athlete? He did it all within the frames of child therapy, in this way he worked out and he still continues to work out his own trauma. He simply had to release his bad energy somewhere, to literally sweat it away. This is how he became an athlete. Therefore, the film begins with the images of everyday life, because he tore all these bad things away, this is the effect of his struggle and Marzena's struggle, which took eleven years. For me, the important question is who could Krzysztof become if he were not an athlete? After all, he is a person with a great potential, he learns quickly, he is hard-working and made up the lost years in a flash. The film has a double meaning, the newborn is Krzysztof, who managed to cut himself off from his past and create himself anew, and the newborn is also his son, as the fulfillment of the dream about having a family, not only the marriage.
You mentioned that Krzysztof is no publicity hound. How did you convince him to participate in the film? How did you gain his trust?
I make all my films about protagonists who do not want any film (laughter). They are simply not interested in it, they do not feel such a need. If Krzysztof does not plaster himself with posters, does not participate in the media buzz, it is hard to expect that when I appear he is happy or thinks about some kind of marketing. In the course of the film, he started to promote himself more, and he did not do it because of narcissistic reasons, but because he was convinced that he had to advertise his "product" to achieve a certain effect on the market, that there are such times and requirements now. Krzysztof did not have the need to tell me his story, he agreed only because I told him that in his past I had found a lot of facts which could not be arranged to form a coherent whole. I had a sense of falsehood, a crack. Then Krzysztof looked at Marzena and said: "Look, there is one person that found it out."
And it was then when he allowed you to reveal his past?
The past appears in the film only as much as it is necessary. Krzysztof was not interested in the struggle with the past, he did not want a confrontation with his mother. I was of the same opinion. I think that there is no need to wake up the sleeping demons, Krzysztof had struggled too long already in order to start a new life. But his past gave him the strength to radically change himself and his life.
The most important moment in the film is the birth of Krzysztof and Marzena's child. Was it the moment when you felt that this is the story? When you felt that you got a film?
From the very beginning I knew that the story of Marzena and Krzysztof had a great potential. The time of pregnancy, awaiting the birth of their firstborn, changes a lot. Krzysztof and Marzena have been together for eleven years, and suddenly a little person appears. This is a challenge, but only one of many challenges which they faced. Their story was and still is full of challenges.
Krzysztof and Marzena have been together for eleven years. "Newborn" is also a film about their relationship ...
This is a film about their relationship and relations between people. Relationships between people make us or break us. My protagonists decided to run away together, to step into the abyss. At the beginning, they did not have anything, when they left their homes, they were still children. It is not easy, let's try to survive several years in poverty. We live in the times of rapid change, we change our phones, cars very quickly, we break up relationships, we need something new all the time, but Krzysztof and Marzena go on. In this sense, the film is about staying together, about the relationship, about being together on an everyday basis.
You cannot separate you protagonists from one another, both are equally important. Before the screening, I had thought that I was going to watch a film about Krzysztof - the world champion, but after a few minutes you could get the impression that Marzena stole the show?
Marzena is the force that pulls their common everyday life forward. Over the years, she was his only support, she cared for him, cared for his relationship. She still does it. She seems stronger, maybe because she was not so scarred by her fate as Krzysztof was. Yes, she did leave her family for him, but she left her home aware of who she is. Krzysztof did not have it. He is a different protagonist and he requires a different approach, a different story-telling. You make a totally different, new film about any person. And this is what is so fascinating, that you cannot run out of subjects, because every person is different. After all, there were films about everything, about sports, about love, about crime, and we still go to the set and we still shoot films.
"Newborn" is a film about love, about relationship, about strength...
I wanted to tell a multi-dimensional story. Krzysztof is not a very demonstrative person, he strongly protects his privacy and has a bad opinion about media that feed on sensation. I respect protagonists with whom I have to struggle on the set, because then I feel that these are people who would not do everything for the film, who are not publicity hounds. I fight for their sincerity. And when it is there, I know that when they speak, it is important. I am very glad that Krzysiek and Marzena liked the film. We always make the film for our protagonists, because they are the most important. These are their films, their cinema.
After the screening at Krakow Film Festival, when they left the cinema after the film, the viewers said that they liked the protagonists. Is this the most important thing to you?
I really liked Krzysztof and Marzena as people. I admire everything that they won and how they did it. Maybe for some people it is not much, but everything they have is the result of their effort and work. They also achieved a spectacular success.
I wonder which words to use in order to describe the style, poetics of your film. Patience, waiting, contemplation?
On the set, we tried not to interfere in the reality, because it described my protagonists to a large extent. On the one hand, my protagonists live slowly, in silence, they slow down. And what happens next? Krzysztof ends up in a screaming, loud world, there are the competitions, hubbub, people talk in seventeen languages. He lives in two such worlds. During the first competition, I was under the impression that Krzysztof does not belong to this "great, big world," that he stands by, sits on his little chair and waits for his turn, but does not take selfies with everyone, does not give high fives. He is aware that he comes here to work. He treats the tournament in a professional way. It is amazing how Krzysztof can totally cut himself off from everything, this is why he wins. He comes, bows, does his job and finishes, he does not need all this "shining" rest. The protagonist could not be forced, smothered, you cannot edit the film according to your preconceived idea. In documentary film, the art is to touch even as little as a millimetre of truth.
Thank you very much for the interview.