Interviewed by Magdalena Ciesielska, Marcin Janos Krawczyk talks about his latest documentary, Mother 24/7, which he brought to the 53th Krakow Film Festival.

 Magdalena Ciesielska: I have the impression that you are much interested in difficult topics, where people find themselves in very dramatic situations and often bear hardships.

Marcin Janos Krawczyk: I would rather say I'm touched by such topics, I just can't stay indifferent to problems people have, if I'm deeply moved by something I have to make it into a story, and this was the case with Mother 24/7. Paradoxically, the idea for this film was born from my observation of the painting being received at my family house, it was an amusing situation which quite quickly turned into a profoundly reflective scene. The film was supposed to be just like that. Initially a bit grotesque and going all the way to  more profound experiences on the part of some of my protagonists, who host the painting of the Black Madonna hoping that their lives will somehow change for the better, or seeking consolation.

Although your film is hardly a long one, it still features a lot of different people. How exactly were you looking for your protagonists?

A longer version was also made, and it features many more protagonists. The website will possibly soon make it possible to learn about more of these people (as for now, the film has its Facebook fanpage). The Black Madonna has been travelling across our country for almost 60 years, visiting a different parish everyday. After a visit in the parish, a copy of the painting starts circulating from house to house, staying for a period of 24 hours in each. It sometimes occurs a year after the peregrination. This offers a good opportunity to look for interesting protagonists all across Poland. I've done a good deal of travelling to find those who would make a good fit.

Your protagonists often describe very intimate experiences. What did you do to earn this kind of sincerity?

Hmm... That's a tricky question to answer ;). One could say that it is the Madonna who compells people to confess. For many, a moment like this is a very special, very personal opportunity to share their problems. The presence of a camera is embarassing in such situations, and yet we have managed to seize authenticity. Often, we used different strategies to help our protagonists forget that we were there...

You show a phenomenon that is almost archaic, especially as seen by the modern world. It brings to mind some awkward provincional folklore. Weren't you concerned that the audience might react with laughter? Misunderstand? Ignore everything beneath the surface, as it's sometimes the case particulary with younger audience?

I originally wanted to make the film accessible for young audience in order to engage them, to familiarize them with a different set of values, but in documentary filmmaking honesty is key, also on the part of the director. I've decided not to make it with any particular group or person in mind. I believe that the courage to speak with my own voice helps me to convey my sensitivity and draw people's attention to things that matter. Even if there will be laughter (and I think it is possible), the message will get through and cause reflection, especially that the role of the Mother in every person's life was particulary stressed in this version of the film.

Indeed, the painting of Mother of God seems to serve as a pretext to provide a broader perspective on mothers in general. To be honest, I think that the painting itself stops to be the central element to the story at some point. I believe this works to the film's advantage. Was this your intention from the start?

I think that I embraced this thought in the process of filming. Originally, it was supposed to be an image of Poland in the context of faith, and the painting was a great thing to start from. Over time, I came to a deeper reflection, and so I made a concious decision to highlight the role of a mother, This was the criterion when I was looking for my protagonists.  

 Interview by Magdalena Ciesielska