To be surprised

This great documentary filmmaker also says that he turns on his camera in order to allow himself to be surprised.   That the intuition is the most important element in his creative process.   When he enters a scene first he notices things that he likes.  Only afterwards he questions the blind chance of these elements to happen and asks himself "the most important questions for a filmmaker: why? What happens that these people in this specific time and place behave the way they do?"  His films try to answer these questions. 

Keeping sensibilities fresh (to be surprised) and maintaining the thought process clear and organized enough to be able to fish out answers to the "why" questions - that's a great formula for work. 


Directed by Jack Kubrick?

Stanley Kubrick with his father, Jack. 

I saw “Stanley Kubrick” exhibition several months ago and still keep finding notes I wrote immediately after experiencing it. 

The interview with his wife reveals a few fascinating insights.   Like the source of his insatiable curiosity.  Supposedly it came from his amazing parents.  They kept inspiring him and motivated to be inquisitive about the world.  At the same time they showed a lot of carrying and feelings toward him.  That’s what Stanley learned since his childhood and it shows in his films - Christiane Kubrick states in her interview. 

Is an artist’s outcome the extension of the way he was raised?  Perhaps then in some cases it is the parents who should be championed as the creators of the art produced by their offspring.  If so, where would all that end?  

How much of what we do is really ours?


A man on the street interview

It was during one of my visits to the old country:  I interviewed this man in January 1990 in Warsaw, just outside a building where the last congress of the Polish Communist Party was held.    It was a rushed exchange and I did not take the man's name. 

He was clearly a well educated, bright and quite angry fellow with a fabulous insight.  He could be a sociologist/historian.  But could be also a representative of a different trade.   Difficult to say since a lot of Poles are quite savvy discussing ethics and politics.

I am considering using this interview in the "Aufhebung", the Marek Siemek documentary and would really like to find this man.  

Does anyone know how to get in touch with him?   


The Siemek Project Update

Stanislaw Elsner-Zaluski as Marek Siemek in "Aufhebung"

The Marek Siemek film got a new title. It’s no longer “The Department of Historical Necessity”, or even "The Department of Accidental Necessity", but instead its now “Aufhebung.”  Don’t worry, the film will start with a definition of the term.

The old title will still remain for now in trailers, money applications, posters, blog and website entries.

It will be a long film.  Hopefully moving fast though.

I am working on setting its openning nigh for early March next year.

Stay tuned.



I haven't posted anything for a long time because of multiple projects that have piled up.  Now that a cold is making me stop for a day or two it's time to try to return to a more regular updates.

Unable to think/edit I reached for an unfinished book.  "Images" by Ingmar Bergman.  (I swam in Bergman earlier in the year conducting a semester long seminar on his films.) 

Two thoughts jump up: in a brilliant and short introduction to the book Woody Allen offers a handful of great remarks about Bergman and yet ends up with "me, me, me".  Is he unable to stick to giving respect to his master?  Is this a sign of Allen's limits?

Then Bergman himself on the very first page drops a bomb.  Recalling a failed (in his opinion) interview/book called "Bergman on Bergman" he comments on his insincerity in giving answers to the journalists involved. He writes the following, devastating sentence:

"I plead for an understanding that, in any case is impossible".

If a mind of such a caliber writes something like that, the earth shatters exposing the limits of the possibility of our knowledge of each other.

I am particularly sensitive to the issue of limits because I am struggling with a difficult creative process which pushes in my face my own limits as a storyteller.  I am also witnessing a farcical bickering among a group of people who, of all the people, should know how to transcend their "inter-subjective" limits.  I am borrowing this term from the Siemek film project - this is the project I am struggling with.

Hopefully I won't write more about the bickering group.  Instead I would soon like to post more about the way the Marek Siemek documentary evolves despite, or because of the limits of its filmmaker.

One thing however is certain: Bergman's bleak outlook at the inability to understand applies to a documentary as well.  A documentary that attempts to bring understanding to its subject is kidding itself.

No understanding is possibly.  Only subjective, (inter-subjective?) approximation from a very specific, singular point of view.  And such an approximation will always remain limited. 


Struggling with the past

The documentary that started as “A Lucky Boy” 
is turning into “The Man Who Escaped From Russia”

Struggling with the form:

Despite its modest format (below 30 min. in length, single character) this project is taking more time then others.  

The question how do we negotiate tragic memories remains the driving force of this tale of a survivor.   

Is it possible to forget? 

Are we able to leave the past behind? 

What does it take to reconcile the past with the present?

And on the formal level:

can that which is recalled be illustrated at all?

what’s the key element in presenting memories?

what’s the relationship between a still and a moving image when both refer to the past?

to what extend music and sequencing can editorialize without influencing the essence of the spoken transmission?


A trailer change

Stanley Opalka, in "A Lucky Boy"

Just for the record:

I had to re-upload the trailer for "A Lucky Boy".

The trailer is now at



Doubles everywhere?

by Ingmar Bergman

Grappling with “Persona” at the seminar that I am conducting at the Warsaw School of Social Psychology.

How much “story” should be in a story?

Is our traditional need for a completed narrative more of a hindrance to understand the world or a powerful tool in deciphering reality?

Do we live in closed narratives?

Aren’t the connections (between the various parts of ourselves and between ourselves and the external) the next America waiting to be discovered?


A Lucky Boy

A Lucky Boy 
(Chłopiec, któremy się poszczęściło)

The short version:

please go to the Krakow Film Festival Trailers Competition page and vote.  The trailer with the most votes will be included in the Festival. I added the trailer for "A Lucky Boy" on March 26th.   The votes can be cast till April 10th.  

The longer version:

What to do with the harrowing historical past?  We can't forget it, yet we have to put it aside so it does not paralyze us.  The hero of this story is compelled to remember, but he also wants to forget in order to succeed in life.   The tension between the horror of the past and the need to move on is what drives this story forward. 

The story is about Stanley Opalka (82),  the author of "Escape from Russia", the memoir which chronicles his 1940 deportation from Eastern Poland to a Siberian gulag, then the ordeal of getting out of Russia.   Stan is consumed by the mission not to let the Siberian suffering of millions of Poles and other nationalities to be forgotten.

I met Stan two years ago and was intrigued by charisma, cheerful personality and the psychological price he has to pay to recall the horrors of the past.  The documentary tries to capture his division between remembering and forgetting.

"A Lucky Boy" in itself is a trailer of sort for a feature film based on "Escape from Russia".  The feature will continue my exploration of "tragic memory."


The Siemek's update

Work at the Marek Siemek documentary - "The Faculty of Accidental Necessity" (yes, the title evolves)  is in full speed now.  Lately I discovered a rare video footage of Siemek's lectures, recorded when he was at his peek.  In his early 50ties, beaming with charisma, smarts and power he validates the raves other have been using in describing him.

What's more important -  in one of the lectures he brings his guard down and allows for a discussion about how much in what he talks about is his own and what are his philosophical goals.  His normal method is to hide himself rather well behind "the presentations" and behind "showing the field".  Yet in the same way there is no objective storytelling in film, here is no objective presentation in philosophy.  I think.

Needles to say this footage significantly colors the entire story.

Yet, as shown below, listening to (even brilliant) philosophical lectures could be challenging, boring and frustrating (to some):



Janusz Głowacki, the screenwriter of Wajda’s “Walesa - the man from hope” recently published a book that chronicles his involvement in the project.  Describing one (abandoned) version of the finished film he wrote: 

“Scenes stood next to each other indifferently, cold and a bit sad (because they were trimmed to fit a longer version and additionally related to each other only historically).”

This resonates with my increasing conviction that in storytelling context rules.  Filming may be “sculpting in time” but it’s the juxtaposition of elements that is the building block of narration.  It’s a banal statement but it’s in the quality and the aims of juxtapositions that films soar or collapse.  

That which appeared before defines that which comes after that.  That which comes now influences that which appeared earlier. Time is flexible.  Context changes the reality.   The meanings shift depending on what’s around the elements that define the meanings.   All depends. 


Wojciech Kilar

I spoke with him once.   I somehow got his number and called "of the street and out of the blue" to ask for a permission to use in a documentary a quote from him music written for Wajda's "The Promised Land".   I was nervous and doubtful if he even talks to me.   (He was already huge, having worked with Coppola and Campion.)

I managed to briefly explain the project.   Amazingly, he agreed immediately.  He said that he would be glad if his music has "a second life", that it would make him happy.   He sounded genuine, positive and energetic.

It was not only a big artistic help, a valuable production contribution, but also a genuine, simple good deed.