Anna Kazejak’s 3rd feature The Word had its UK premier at Raindance 2014; here the Polish filmmaker shares her experiences of working at home and in Denmark.
I’ve been making films for 13 years. After my 2nd year in film school I said to my friends ‘let’s make a feature film’. I thought it’s better just to jump into it, not to wait, I felt after 2 years I knew something. We put together 3 stories as a feature film, Ode to Joy, everyone had 30 minutes to tell their story. We won a lot of awards.
The Word is a Polish/Danish co-production it’s the first time I worked outside of Poland and I love Denmark, I think it’s a perfect place for filmmakers. They do commercial films but they care about their art and that was a really nice experience.
In Denmark almost half the filmmakers are female. I don’t want to play the victim but it is much harder to work in Poland as a woman especially in the commercial area. If you do your own work and have your own producer it’s fine, you can find your way, but in commercials and TV it’s much more difficult.
I once interviewed with some producers for a job and I was the only female director in that group; I was asked about how I could combine work with children, I said ‘why have you asked me that question, I wouldn’t be here if it was a problem, have you asked anyone else the same question?’. I made my 1st feature when I was pregnant, the 2nd film six weeks after the birth of my second child. I was in Denmark for 6 months and I saw that there were a lot of female directors working in TV and in commercials, it’s not so weird there, Poland is not as advanced in its thinking, not as open.
I feel like I am in the right place. If you want me to do something you can see my work, it speaks for itself. I don’t care about proving myself any more, as female directors we need to just be ourselves. I think female directors have to be twice as smart and work twice as hard as men to be in the same place. But you know that’s the life, I’m not fighting it; sometimes I’m a little sad so what can I do? I do my work.
I don’t want to feel like a victim of society, I come from Poland but now maybe I can choose where I work and live, maybe someday I will choose Denmark, I loved it there, the feeling I didn’t have to prove anything. If you are good it doesn’t matter whether you wear trousers or a skirt.
There were a lot of challenges making this film. Working with teenagers and combining non-actors and professionals; finding a way to make it seamless, casting the right actors to create the believable relationships on screen. The structure of the film is a bit experimental for me. I like challenges, and this one was finding another way to tell a story. Sometimes I feel very important moments are just to observe someone and see the emotional life just by watching their stillness.
In the beginning I didn’t want to make every film with a female lead, so I wouldn’t be put into a box, so my second film was more male. Now I want to make films about women because that’s the time for me to make this kind of film. In Poland there are so few good female characters in films, no good roles for actresses. I think there is a gap in Polish cinema and maybe I can fill it. It’s not like I think ‘ok I have to do it’, it just feels right, I feel ready.
It’s much better now for women filmmakers in Poland. 10 years ago the Polish Film Institute was just set up; it didn’t exist when I first started. Now it is better, even if we just have 12 female directors they are strong and we are trying to help the younger generation. The head of the Polish Film Institute is a woman so she is thinking about gender too.
When I was younger I wanted to have it all; I wanted to have awards, I wanted to have a huge audience and big box office and now I feel like you can’t have everything or maybe you can but you have to wait. Sometimes I feel like maybe I spent too much time trying to prove something.