Aleksandra Hirszfeld • Director of Female Enthusiasts
“These women prove that such a world can exist, a world where you can realise your ambitions while also thinking of others”
by Marta Bałaga
- We talked to the director of a new feminist documentary series that features conversations with 100 influential Polish women
Consisting of 100 video interviews with women leaders, available to watch on Canal+ in Poland since January, Female Enthusiasts is the brainchild of director Aleksandra Hirszfeld and producer Magda Sobolewska, keen to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Polish women’s right to vote, as well as those who, despite everything, are always ready to motivate others.
Cineuropa: In each episode, you always ask your protagonists the same questions. They are very basic, like your usual “who are you?”, but the answers are anything but.
Aleksandra Hirszfeld: I wanted to create a group portrait. I was a journalist myself for some time, and I felt that in most interviews, there is a lack of personal communication. We talk about someone's achievements, professional to professional, and I wanted to talk like a person to a person. The whole initiative was about trying to understand why these women do what they do, also because a lot of it is pro-social. Our leaders are like a litmus test – they can recognise what we should really focus on, so it's crucial to create the right space for them to inspire others. These questions show their personal side, why it's important to them. I believe that activists should become leaders in the future, because their priorities are quite different from all these corporations governing the world right now. Also, research shows that when you ask people about their mentors, they mention men. And I see so many wonderful, ambitious and entrepreneurial women around me, who also happen to help others. I wanted to highlight how great they are.
They answer quite freely, although there is no time to warm up – the episodes last only a few minutes. How did you create that safe space?
The selection of our team was certainly important because all of these people feel the need to build a better, friendlier world. We were filming at a time when our society was somewhat stagnant, and then we created this bubble where we would feed ourselves with positive stories. Our installation initially scared our heroines away, because it meant that you would be just seated there, talking to yourself about how great you are [laughs]. In the end, most of them admitted that the interview was somehow therapeutic. I combined all my life experiences in this project, and what I always wanted was to provide the other person with something meaningful: to make it an actual experience.
When you mentioned creating this bubble, it could even be taken literally – surrounded by all these mirrors, it seems like they are telling their stories to someone else, actually, rather than just facing the camera straight on.
I recorded my first interview in a normal way, but it immediately became obvious that that was not what I wanted at all. I come from the art field, so the form is crucial to me – I wanted to find one that would be the signature of this entire project. I have been fascinated by crystals for a long time; they have all these different flat faces; they give you different perspectives. The whole installation is shaped like that because I wanted to show how many faces one woman can have. It's a meeting with oneself, a sit-down at the round table to discuss certain ideas. In addition to videos, we are also present on Instagram and Facebook, and we focus on so-called “solution journalism”, concentrating on creating responses to social issues. After all, the role of the media is also to set positive examples.
Agnieszka Holland is probably the most recognisable face among your interlocutors; others are better known locally. But would you like to continue this idea also on an international scale?
That’s my dream, and we are slowly heading in that direction with the producer, Magda. It will be a challenge, as before we were shooting in art galleries for free, and so many people have helped us. So this time, it would be about finding funds and the right partners. However, I would love to see another 100 women talking about their activities – women who built some kind of a narrative around themselves – and discover what it means in different parts of the world. I have a friend, in her thirties, who wishes she had seen something like that before. She told me that the message of this project made her believe in herself more, and that some issues can be approached from a completely different side. These women didn't have an easy life, not at all. Their path was arduous and difficult, but they soldiered on, and that gives them strength. They prove that such a world can exist, a world where you can realise your ambitions while also thinking of others. It's not always necessary to play hardball. Considering what we have to deal with these days, all these cataclysms, if we don't start to think collectively, everything will collapse. I don't know why people fear it so much. When we are kind to each other and when we appreciate others for what they have done, we all gain from it.
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