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LOCARNO 2022 Semaine de la Critique

Lidia Duda • Director of Fledglings

"Good human energy is the only power that can transform the world"

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- The veteran Polish director talks to us about the power of hugs and of human emotion and how to find hope in dark times

Lidia Duda • Director of Fledglings

Cineuropa chatted with Lidia Duda, director of the sweet and tender documentary Fledglings [+see also:
trailer
interview: Lidia Duda
film profile
]
presented in Locarno’s Semaine de la Critique section. It revolves around three 7-year-olds, Zosia, Oskar and Kinia, who left their home to go to a special school to learn how to live in a new and untested world. They all are visually impaired, but the film doesn’t focus on that, but rather on these tiny humans, while they’re trying to build a new life after leaving a safe nest.

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Cineuropa: In a previous interview, you said that one has to pay a price for everything that is good and that you value positive things, that they push you forward. So what motivates you most?
Lidia Duda: I think people value what they get with effort. They respect the work they put in. Easy victories are usually shallow. And if people need to fight for something, that also shapes them – they’re different from who they were in the beginning. That’s probably why I was always interested in protagonists who were facing a challenge, no matter how strong or weak their character was. The road to victory has to be paved with change, decision-making, accepting and rejecting. Observing it has always been engaging for me. Everyone needs a good energy and I get mine from other people. I tell other peoples’ stories, but they become very personal to me in the sense that they give me energy, they also change me.

What has Fledglings given you?
I think everyone has a moment when they feel that there is too much bad energy coming from outside. War, the refugee crisis, climate change. People feel that they don’t control the world they live in, that everything slips away. In moments like these, it’s good to get some good energy. And I believe in small, tiny worlds, because only by changing them, people can change the macro-world. Good human energy is the only power that can transform the world. Yet again I focused my camera on protagonists whose world was falling apart. This time, they were little kids who had to leave their family home to build a new one among strangers. It’s hard to imagine a more difficult task. I thought that this situation had to awake an inner force in them, so that they could face that challenge. Since their parents were gone, the kids had to find new people to bond with. I assumed that they would fill the void with relationships with other kids who were in the same situation, that empathy would kick in – and this is what happened. Fledglings is about building a new world based on human bonds – that is the most important theme of the film. It shows how much other people can give us, help up or how much they can save us. I am a firm believer in the power of human emotion. If a person believes in a cause and has emotions to drive them, they’re capable of moving mountains.

What role does a documentary film play here?
I think that this film reminds us of what is important, and does it in a special way, because my protagonists are 7 years old. They haven’t developed that social mechanism that would make them feel ashamed of themselves. Also, visually impaired kids have to talk about their emotions very precisely, they can’t see each other or “read” body language. They’re only left with words. Maybe that’s why the film is so emotionally powerful, because Zosia, Oskar and Kinia are so precise in describing their feelings. It also reminds us of what is important in everyday life: other people, regardless of whether they're identical or different from us. What matters is whether we can communicate with them and whether we can find things we have in common, not things that divide us. I made a film about kids, not about visually impaired kids. That’s why the audience quickly forgets about that and looks at what they have in common with the titular Fledglings.

Speaking of: how did you find them?
The challenge was that we had to start shooting on the first day of school – starting a new year with them. I couldn’t go with a camera to the kids’ homes to meet them, because they felt safe there. They knew where everything was, they had their parents with them. And I needed to know how the kids would act when they'd change environment. Technically I knew them, because I'd read all the documents about them, but my knowledge was purely theoretical. I also didn’t know if they'd accept me and my crew. So I had to start shooting and make a decision in the first 3 or 4 days about whether they’d be my protagonists. I needed to see how they were reacting to each other, and how they communicated with each other. Soon I knew that I'd found my Fledglings.

Is there any scene or anything in particular that moved you while shooting?
There is a key word that was repeated numerous times in the film: "Hug me." It was an SOS signal sent from one kid to another, and there was an instant reaction to it: "Come here, I’ll hug you." And that hug, lasting maybe 10 seconds, was enough to make them feel that there was someone close by.

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