"The Queen of Silence" by Agnieszka Zwiefka is a unique combination of documentary observation and dance sequences, inspired by Bollywood films. The film was reviewed for Polish Docs by Daniel Stopa.

My favourite documentary films are those that do not try to look objectively, "clearly," but want to get maximally close to the human being and filter some fragment of the reality through his eyes. The latest film by Agnieszka Zwiefka - "The Queen of Silence" is such a film. This story of a young gypsy girl is free from reportage and anthropological elements. Patient and long observation is used by the director to get acquainted with the internal life of the protagonist and to show it to the viewers.

10-year old, deaf and mute Denisa lives with her family on an illegal gypsy encampment in the outskirts of Wrocław. Just like other inhabitants of this settlement, she experiences poverty, exclusion and dislike of the society. Such a description can only be a harbinger of yet another bleak, interventionist documentary about poor children. However, Zwiefka does not use this point of view, believing that because she points the camera at the gypsy girl, she has to tell the story through Denisa’s eyes. Such a view is usually rather naive, innocent and incomplete - as it happens to children - but also sincere and full of emotions.

One day, Denisa finds some Bollywood films in the rubbish. Fascinated by the protagonists of these dance films, she practises all day long and tries to imitate the choreographies she saw. From this moment on, in "The Queen of Silence" there appear dance scenes, stylized as Bollywood films, with Denisa, the inhabitants of the settlement and of Wrocław, as well as professional dancers. These scenes, though they are associated with the technique of a feature filmmaking rather than a documentary one, seem to be taken out from the internal world, thoughts and emotions of the protagonist, who cannot communicate with others due to her disability.

Of course, Zwiefka does not try to whitewash the reality, and the dark side of the protagonists' life is also present in the film. Poverty, hostility of the inhabitants of neighbouring houses, constant police interventions and the fear of being deported - the film does not lack all these, but the director cleverly mixes "raw," observational scenes, and staged shots, full of warm kindness. It is so in the scene, where the police comes to the encampment and begins to write down the names of the inhabitants, and on the screen we watch the children trying out new choreography, inspired by the officers' visit. Children feel and act in such a way, turning fear and bad experiences into play. It is also the way in which "The Queen of Silence" was edited.

In a sense, "The Queen of Silence" shows the power of cinema, too. Thanks to camera and film tools, Denisa can make her dreams come true and communicate with the world. The human element is important in all this. It is thanks to the selfless help of the doctor that Denisa starts to hear, to get to know the world and to experience it in a totally new, fuller way. Also thanks to the director, who decided to be closer to the protagonist rather than to "great" matters, the internal world of the girl can speak to us, and we can see it.

Daniel Stopa