Monika Pawluczuk talks to Magdalena Ciesielska about her latest documentary “When I am a Bird”, presented at the 53rd Krakow Film Festival.

 Magdalena Ciesielska: I’ll start with rather trivial questions, which you must’ve heard many times already. Why this subject, why this place and this particular heroine? How did you come up with the idea for this film?

 Monika Pawluczuk: I’ve been absorbed with the timelessness of this place. That hole in time and space, where absolutely nothing is happening to the point that, as I anticipated, there was a chance for a true encounter. And I’ve drowned, I’ve fallen in love, I’ve let myself to be charmed by it. Previously, it was a project about a girl, who in spite of her respect for tradition, is trying to get rid of its’ burden, as that’s what the neck rings have become in the modern world. That film was never made. To continue with that project would mean to risk the girl’s death. I had to stop shooting. Even now I never show the material to anyone. The project “When I am a Bird” is the continuation of my experience with the Kajan people. It’s not as naïve anymore, not as pure, with less wishful thinking. When I went there again, I knew their world a little and I also knew, that this world can cause destruction to preserve the well-being of the group. I was also aware of its’ ruthlessness.

Magdalena Ciesielska: In my opinion, you’re scraping their culture off of the superficial folklore, which is a tourist attraction and very often the only context, in which these women’s life is discussed. Was this juxtaposition of truth and imagination your intention from the beginning?

I didn’t have a fixed plan. I wanted to get close to my heroine, to understand how she builds her inner world, what she does to survive, what she holds on to, what gives her hope. These people are suspended between nothing and nothing, they don’t really have a way out. That’s the hardest part. The confrontation of truth and imagination emerged somewhere along the way.

When shooting in such a remote place, one can face many barriers, was it like that with you?

Maybe not barriers, but difficulties. It’s really a dance. From one tourist to another. People completely cut off from their feelings and emotions, or they wouldn’t be able to survive. Too small space, too many experiences.

What was the most difficult?

The hardest for me was to face this isolation, the numbness, the escape from any feelings. The frustration on both sides, the tourists and the Kajans. And pretending that all of it makes any sense. Apart from that, it’s difficult to dramatically talk about stillness. Seemingly, that place is not cinematic at all. At first glance it’s just boring, stalls, scarves, figurines and the wandering, bored tourists. That’s not a theme for a film. On the contrary. That’s exactly what I was attracted to.

An interview by Magdalena Ciesielska