HBO Europe has commissioned Polish at Home, a series of 14 short films about isolation from 16 Polish filmmakers working during lockdown.
The project asked 16 filmmakers (two projects are collaborations) to create 14 short films. The plots must take place in the time of the pandemic, they cannot exceed 10 minutes, all must adhere to lockdown restrictions and the filmmakers must shoot them on their own in four weeks, although the format and genre is up to them.
Jerzy Skolimowski was in Sicily when the pandemic hit, where he was supposed to shoot his next film, Baltazar. He and his wife, Ewa Piaskowska, decided to stay on the Italian island. “We rented a 16th Century Daracen tower which practically stands on the sea. Around it, rocky terrain and an olive grove. The dog has space to run, there’s space to go for a walk, there is space to paint”, said the director. Skolimowski wasted no time. Over a dozen large paintings were created in half a year. “I agreed to Iza Lopuch’s, the head of production at HBO Poland, proposal without hesitation, which was actually an act of recklessness. If I asked for time to think, I would have realised that there are only two of us, we have no equipment other than a photo camera, Ewa never took pictures for a film in her life… besides, in my career I took part in such a collective undertaking only once. As an aspiring painter, I performed at a group exhibition in Los Angeles. Then I acted only individually. And then suddenly I have to risk a confrontation with some, perhaps youthful, extravagant form, in which my video may turn out to be archaic or not sexy… My authority could go by the board. I’m glad that this act of courage paid off, because this film gave me great satisfaction.”
From time to time, Piaskowska traveled to a town several kilometers away. Each time she was issued a pass that she was going to a supermarket or pharmacy. Only with such “practicality” could she take shots. In “It’s not us”, Skolimowski juxtaposes almost still, black and white images with sounds vibrating with life. The film was shot on a camera without professional sound recording equipment, so this arrangement of the material was a must. Kacper Habisiak from Dreamsound Studio helped, who collected potential sounds for use. Contacts with Italian friends were only by phone, because for security reasons it was impossible to meet up. The editor Agnieszka Glińska also worked remotely.
“We wanted to capture a surreal image of a wonderful town that completely froze suddenly. Not a living soul in the streets. It is as if the essence of life had been choked violently. A real tragedy is happening all around. There were days when a thousand people a day died of coronavirus in Italy.”
Lockdown was difficult for Italians for other reasons too. “Italians are completely different from Poles. They have to hug each other when greeting, kiss on both sides, shake their hands, and embrace the arms. It is part of their culture, they live so closely together. And all the more it was a disastrous experience for them.”
Has the pandemic changed Skolimowski? “Of course, this is probably the most dramatic event in the last few decades. But in my life there have been many tragic events. As a child, I survived the Second World War. Therefore, what happened now wasn’t the greatest shock.”
305MB | 10mn 16s | 1280×720 | mkv