Yuma – Communism, capitalism and cowboys
by Laurence Boyce
10/07/2012 - Set in a town on the Polish-German border during the late 80s, Piotr Mularuk’s debut feature – which had its International Premiere in the East of the West Competition at Karlovy Vary - looks at “yuma”: the act of stealing from the richer side of the border with the justificationn that the proceeds are reparation for the crimes in German history.
The story of Yuma [trailer] centers around Zyga, a young Polish kid in his early 20s who wants the glamorous life that post-communist Poland would seem to promise. He soon starts smuggling cigarettes for his aunt and – whilst in the thrall of the excessive consumption that a modern capitalist has to offer – begins stealing items. Initially it’s just for him and his friends, but soon he begins stealing more and more, becoming braver and more brazen as his notoriety and riches increases. He soon becomes the talk of the town, the man who can get everything. But in getting what he wants, he’s loses his morality. Worse he soon gains the attention of local gangsters who think that he’s getting a little too big for his boots.
This is a full-throated affair that ranges from comedy to drama whilst constantly utilising the tropes of the Western genre (Zyga is obsessed by the classic Western 3:10 to Yuma). It’s sometimes a little too schizophrenic with the tone sometimes feeling uneven and a narrative that tries to be both social satire and a portrait of a person and his decaying morality. Despite this, there’s much to enjoy here with a brilliant performance by young actor Jakub Gierszal who is intensely believable and sympathetic as the youngster dazzled by the promise of consumption and abundance. He’s one of the 2012 Shooting Stars and – if he continues at this level – his star will indeed continue to rise. Director Mularuk also shows himself to be a prodigious talent staging a few bravura shots and sequences including a rather elegant scene in which the ‘yuma’ gangs step up their exploits and begin ram-raiding.
It’s already picking up interest in some territories – it’s already been picked up for distribution in the UK by new company Giant Films – and others may well follow suit. The festival circuit looks like a certainty as well as the film – despite one or two flaws – should appeal to a wide audience.