The 56th DOK.Leipzig Festival starts today. One of the Polish representatives is the film “A Diary of a Journey” by Piotr Stasik, which has been accepted for the International Documentary Film Competition and is going to have its’ international premiere in Leipzig. Here’s the review of this film.

It seems that one could see the latest film by Piotr Stasik as a documentary portrayal of Tadeusz Rolke, a real legend of the Polish photography, but such a description would be in fact unfair, as “A Diary of a Journey” (2013) is an original, multicolored and skillfully constructed story about friendship, growing up, evanescence and human passion. This film is far from a classic biographical documentary, we don’t see any talking heads, no one offers us a story in a nutshell, a stack of archival materials and outdated anecdotes. The starting point for Stasik is the incredible encounter of a pupil with his master, a fifteen-year-old Michał, an entrant to the art of photography, and an over seventy-year-old and already recognized Rolke. An elderly teacher introduces the boy to the secrets of traditional photography, helps him with choosing his camera and reviews his first pictures. However, the most important part of the education is their trip together through Poland, in order to portray the people living in small towns and villages. They go for a journey in a camper, with a darkroom installed in it, so the photographs can go straight to the protagonists. It appears to be not only an incredible lesson of photography, but also life itself. In one of the scenes Rolke says: ‘If they’d told me these things, when I was fifteen, I would’ve been wiser’. With every kilometer going by, every photograph, the relationship between them becomes closer, their conversations braver. For both of them (like in a real road movie) this journey is of great meaning, an initiation for Michał and a summary in a way for Rolke.

The big value of “A Diary of a Journey” is its’ lightness. It’s a dynamic, funny story, free from being sentimental or melancholic. Though it could be, since Rolke is representing the analog world, old cameras and vinyl records. But that world of his, discovered through Michał’s eyes, is fascinating and attractive. What’s more, at a certain point the roles are reversed, Michał is teaching Tadeusz how to play golf, he selflessly takes care of him when it’s needed. The fascinating and unconventional one is of course Rolke himself, his passion, his strength, his love for life and living above the generations. In every sentence of the master one can feel a warm tone, his sense of humor (often dark one) never leaves him, for instance, when in one of the scenes he talks with Michal about a cemetery in Warsaw: ‘You’ve never been there? I’m inviting you to my funeral. I’ve got a place booked already’.

The film also shows what an important role the art plays in our life. For the protagonists photography has become a way to open up, to get to know others, but also to look inside themselves. The art then stands for a way of communicating, because only near the art the relations between people reveal themselves to the fullest.

Daniel Stopa