Born in Katowice, Poland, Alexandra Wesolowski studied political science at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität in Erlangen and finished directing at the University for Television and Film in Munich. “Impreza – The Celebration” is her the debut feature documentary as a solo director and is in competition for the Golden Lynx at this year’s edition.
How did you end up being a director? And why in documentaries?
It started with an interest in politics and me wanting to become a journalist. In this process my understanding of media and truth changed. For me every film is an independent world one can visit, but it can never show you an objective reality. Neither fiction nor documentaries. So the difference between documentaries and fiction lies within the process of making not necessarily in the perception.
About "Impreza", what was the creative process behind it?
I did a lot of research about the roots of conservatism in Poland and I noticed a gap within the media covering this phenomenon. I was annoyed by a constant hysteria and moral judgement. I wanted to let my family explain their views and let them themselves put it in context. Without saying if it's right or wrong.
Is it having the impact you expected?
It caused a lot of discussions, but the discussion was actually about what media can do and what should be expected of a film. I believe it is dangerous to expect a movie to be more than a story, to show you truth. That would give media too much power. Movies are more about perspective and being aware that there are a lot of different perspectives on the world.
Being a political science student, how does it influence your view on the themes you bring to your films?
Studying helps you to find a distant view on certain phenomena, you can more easily put it in context or analyse connections. Having a factual view on things helps you to choose in the next step the perspective that is most powerful for telling the story.
And how does the academic study of direction affects the way you do it? Do you think it's necessary for a director to study cinema?
Making movies is a lot about money. You need the chance to prove that you can handle the money and that you will deliver something that is close to what you have promised in the first place. Film school gives you this opportunity and it allows you to fail - which is essential for anything, not only directing.
Doing docs must be a lot about capturing the right moments, what's the thing you regret most not filming?
Usually you miss almost everything, then you get some candy and you create a story out of it. The audience will never know what you've missed, so I do not worry about that. Very often you catch something and it feels incredible at the moment, but does not work when you watch it later – same the other way. That's one reason why it's so important to work with a good editor. Filming “Impreza” was quite different than the documentaries I did before. I staged a lot and the structure was pretty clear before shooting. My family was wonderful, they put a lot of trust in me and Denis, my DOP. And actually they were easier to direct than to observe.
Do you ever feel you are seeing the world through the camera? Or that you can't turn off that setting in your mind of capturing the right plan?
Yes. A lot. Also I am rethinking things that I observe or that happened to me and checking if it had cinematic potential. Which can be quite depressing sometimes.
Do you think that people still have that predefined ideia that docs are boring or is it changing?
I think it's changing, at least I hope so. I guess people are more aware of the big scope of documentaries, also with Netfilx and VODs getting stronger in this field.
How does it make it feel to have your films competing in festivals?
It’s great, really. And also I was very happy that it was selected at FEST, because I love the way it presents the movies. The cinematic view, the love and easiness. That's the way it should be.
And the question I have to do in order to finish this interview, what comes next?
Just last week we finished shooting a funny sci-fi short, so I will be involved in the post-production process for some time. Also I am writing a script for a fiction feature, which we hopefully start shooting next summer.
Interview by Filipa Fonseca
On Leuk Jornal | Edition 1 | 18 - 19 JUN 2018