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KARLOVY VARY 2022 Competition

Anna Kazejak • Director of Fucking Bornholm

“I have never received so many messages after any of my other films”


- The Polish helmer discusses why her new feature is prompting so much feedback from her audience, and why film is her favourite art form

Anna Kazejak • Director of Fucking Bornholm

Cineuropa chatted to Polish writer-director Anna Kazejak, whose fourth film, Fucking Bornholm [+see also:
film review
interview: Anna Kazejak
film profile
, is partaking in the Crystal Globe Competition at Karlovy Vary. She discusses why her feature is prompting so much feedback from her audience, and why film is her favourite art form.

Cineuropa: In one of the scenes in your film, Maja, the main protagonist, hears from a long-time friend that she is the best mother he knows. He had good intentions but effectively boils Maja down to her role as a mother. In this small scene, you encapsulate a huge problem – that men and women don’t understand each other’s needs, and don’t know how to talk to each other.
Anna Kazejak:
It’s the essence of the film. The way I see the world and the relationship between men and women is that even if both sides have the best intentions, and they have a positive attitude and want to communicate, it’s very difficult for them. Sometimes, it’s impossible. I think this is what we are observing in Poland now, but I don’t think it’s only a local issue. Agnieszka Holland has said in many interviews that apart from all of the conflicts happening in the world now, there is also a global conflict between two forces: male and female. It lies in a fact that many people are already aware of: that after a very long period of male domination, women have become empowered and want their voices to be heard. They demand a social existence. And that is having a big impact on our lives and on the way we communicate, because we are drifting apart in our needs. I can see it clearly in the generation of forty-somethings that I belong to. I think we are the acid test for how things are changing between men and women now.

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It’s interesting, then, that you had a male co-writer, Filip Kasperaszek. Did he help you get the male perspective right?
I worked with a male screenwriter in order to have male characters that would be believable, but sometimes Filip was even more pro-feminist than me, also because he represents a younger generation... When I talked to men about this film, I noticed they have some sort of resistance towards it. I think it’s partly because Fucking Bornholm shows their soft underbelly, and what they are displaying is just a defensive reaction. We didn’t want to be placed in a situation where people could say that the script was written by a woman, so it could easily be dismissed as not true.

In the opposite case – when a man shoots a film about women – that argument wouldn’t be used as often.
Ever since cinema has existed, men have talked about us, women, and have won the biggest international awards for that. Women were always allowed less, especially in this country. I’m 43, and I’ve had time to get used to that, and every time I go abroad, I feel that it’s easier to talk about films directed by women because the element of sex is just not relevant.

You wrote the first version of the script in 2014. Before Fucking Bornholm was financed and shot in 2021, it was released in the form of an audio series and a book. Why did you stick to your guns and make a film, too?
The book and audio series were secondary to the screenplay. Film was always the best medium for me. When I make films, I use images, and not everything has to be so literal, like it does in the case of an audio series, even though it looks like this form has more to offer. Some things I can’t convey only through an actor’s performance or dialogue. For example, only in film can I show how Maja walks in the sea and what is on her face as she does so. I need images to show her and Mikael sitting in silence in the morning and feeling so comfortable in that simple situation. In an audio series, I can only use words to describe how my characters feel, and that pushes the story into soap-opera territory.

On the other hand, the book gave me an opportunity to introduce different timelines; I was able to add a lot of character backstories, and readers can understand them quicker because they can literally read their minds. All in all, I think that the book and the series are complementary to the film. I get messages from people who watched the film and listened to the series, and they ask me about the context and inspiration. In general, I have never received so many messages after any of my other films. I can see that Fucking Bornholm is making the audience open up to a conversation. I know there is a sequel to the audio series in the works, and there are plans to make a follow-up TV series to the film. I am not working on either so far; I will return when I can get the camera rolling because I am a filmmaker, first and foremost. Film is something I understand and like, and it’s what I am good at.

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