May 2017

Monika Kotecka is one half of the Polish creative duo  Kurkot Kollectiv.  Together with Karolina Poryzała, their short artistic documentary Volte won “Honourable Mention” at the 2017 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. It was the only Polish documentary to receive any award from Hot Docs. Hot Docs also happened to be Volte’s World Premier.

 

Born in Wroclaw and currently based in Warsaw, 35-year-old Kotecka was an accomplished cinematographer and photographer before making the transition to directing.

Monika Kotecka after Volte received honourable mention at Hot Docs 17'

Monika Kotecka after Volte received honourable mention at Hot Docs 17′

Volte is not your average sports film. It explores the unique world of competitive vaulting and the team of young girls who have dedicated their lives to the sport.

 

Ekran’s Jasia Kiersnowski had the pleasure of spending time with Kotecka during her visit in Toronto. Over coffee on Queen Street West in Toronto’s Entertainment District, the two discussed Kotecka’s relationship with Volte, which goes far beyond her initial expectations for this project.

 

Jasia: To begin with, please tell us why your co-director [Karolina Poryzała] didn’t travel with you to Toronto.

 

MK: Well there’s a good reason Karolina couldn’t come to Hot Docs– she’s pregnant!  She’s due to have her baby any day now. She made the decision not to travel such a long distance when she’s so close to giving birth.

 

Jasia: That’s fantastic news and a good reason!  Let’s get into the film itself– this film has a very unique subject [young girls vaulting on horses].  Can you tell us how you came across this subject for your film?

Co-Director of Volte Karolina Poryzała

Screenwriter & Co-Director of “Volte” Karolina Poryzała

MK: Karolina and I have been working together as Kurkot Kollectiv since 2012.  Karolina is the creator and screenwriter. I mainly work on the cinematography, however, together we act as Co-Directors on our projects.  When we started out we were mainly working on fashion shoots and music videos.  When a well-known musician gave us a really difficult piece of music to work with, we accepted the task of creating a concept for this bizarre combination of jazz and experimental music.  When we heard the music for the first time we immediately decided we needed the video’s concept to be very unique. That’s how we decided on choosing a strange sport for the video. We came up with vaulting. Before we made this film we knew nothing about vaulting except that it existed.

 

I have to admit; the first time we went to see the girls training we were like, “WHAT-THE-HELL”. I mean it’s one thing to see it on YouTube but when you see it in real life– these huge horses and these little girls running around them and between them and on top of them– it was out of this world.  But what really stood out for us was when we first caught a glimpse of the relationship between the girls.  They really take care of each other.  They even call themselves a ‘tribe’. From that initial meeting where we were planning to make a music video we thought, “hey, let’s make a documentary about these girls!”

And obviously we are very happy with the choice we made to make this our debut documentary. Karolina and I are both from the visual side of film. For years, I studied cinematography and she was studying photography and that’s really apparent when you watch the film. The visuals are very important in this film.

 

figura

Jasia: The visuals are strong but what really caught me was the sound design and the music.  There is barely any dialogue. How come there is hardly any dialogue from the subjects in your film?

 

MK: To be honest, when we came across this project, we knew that there were so many layers within the story that we decided to create two films: a short and a full-length feature.  For the short we only wanted to focus on visual and sound.  We wanted to build a hyper-real world around those girls with an emphasis on their emotions as expressed through the sound and the music.

The sound design was fantastic. We had on board with us a great sound director (Patrycja Krysik) and I think she did an excellent job.  Also, the music was very much complementary to the sound.

 

Jasia: You say that the girls call themselves a tribe, but after watching the closing credits it seems as though your crew is a “mirror tribe”—it’s almost entirely female.  What was that like?  Was it on purpose?

 

MK: Yeah, it was practically an all female production. It wasn’t on purpose. It just happened to be that way and it ended up being an advantage for Karolina and I. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with men and women. I don’t have a gender bias but with this project specifically, being an all female crew gave the girls a solid sense of trust and safety. And not only did we need that to access the girl’s world, but we are touching a sensitive subject with body issues in this film and we wanted everyone on set to have a level amount of comfort that you wouldn’t get with a co-ed crew.

Later on, it just so happened that our editor was female. And one of the music composers is my sister.  We are all very close. But like I said, none of this was on purpose, it all came naturally and I think that’s why everything ran so smoothly.

fofo_tytułowe

Jasia: How did you and Karolina make the decision to start the Kurkot Kollectiv??

 

MK: As I mentioned, I started out as a cinematographer.  I was trained at the Łódź Film School.  When I finished school I worked on other people’s projects for a long time.  However, in the back of my mind I always wanted to make my own films. I always wanted to be a director so that I could have more creative freedom and Karolina wanted to be a screenwriter. On an artistic level we really connected. When the timing was right we decided to collaborate and that’s when we started to make films together. We started off small by making short video clips and built our way up.  Volte is our first short documentary and now we’re working on our first full-length.  We also have a fiction film in the works.  It’s a process.  It took a long time but it gave us the experience and knowledge to get where we are today.

 

Jasia: Do you still keep in touch with the girls today?  What about the character Zuzia, she really stood out for me.

 

MK: Yes, we do because they are going to all be involved in our full-length documentary of the same subject. The full-length film is about growing up and we’re focusing on three protagonists of the same team but mainly on Zosia the youngest girl and Ola, the eldest.  Zosia is the girl who replaced Zusia as the ‘flyer’ (the top of the pyramid) in Volte.

zuzia_plakat

Zuzia from “Volte”

This film is basically our version of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, but of course we are calling it our “Girlhood”.  For the past five years we’ve been observing how they’re changing as they grow up.  At this moment, that team is the best in Poland and they’re preparing for the championships. The sport is definitely a driving theme in this film but our main interest is their growth process.  How have they changed? How have they matured?

 

Jasia: How long are you planning to follow them?

 

MK: Actually, we’ve been shooting the feature simultaneously with the short so we’ve been filming for three years and we’ve got a year ahead of us.  What’s nice is that we’ve already been able to see these girls change.

 

We got funding from the Polish Film Institute and we’ve had meetings with some other big distributors. But nothing has been signed yet.

 

Jasia: I hope we get to screen the feature at Ekran…. 2020?

 

MK: Actually! We are planning to complete filming in 2018. But you know the editing will take a while with all that material. But for sure we will keep in touch and we would love to have our film screened at a future Ekran festival.

 

 

 

Ekran recently caught up with Polish filmmaker Marcin Lesisz, whose fascinating and award-winning short Goran the Camel Man has been playing at Hot Docs and was reviewed here. In the interview below, Marcin talks about how he met his nomadic, free-living protagonist and discusses plans for a second film about this ‘camel man’ – a tale of an unusual quest for love.

Director Marcin Lesisz at Hot Docs 2017

Director Marcin Lesisz at Hot Docs 2017

 

 

EKRAN: How did you get to know or hear about Goran, the film’s subject?

 

MARCIN LESISZ: I do a lot of travelling and hitchhiking around Europe, Iran and other countries. I was travelling with my friend in Turkey we met him one night. We were looking for a place to pitch our tent and he came out of the darkness.  He was like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

He approached us and said, ‘Hello traveler, are you looking for something?’ We told him we were looking for a place to sleep, and he said, ‘You can stay with me, near my tent, close to my camel and my animals’. The next morning I woke up to this whole set up with his camp and his camel. We talked a lot about his philosophy and he agreed that I was the right person to make a film about him. A year later he went to Georgia and I took a cheap flight there from Poland. I just took my camera and went. I made this movie without any funds or sponsors. I was absolutely alone. However, recently, the Krakow Film Foundation has sponsored me and they’re my representation at festivals. It’s been a really surreal experience, especially since I made this movie on a very small budget.

EKRAN: How long did you spend filming Goran?

 

MARCIN LESISZ: Altogether I spent one month with him.

 

EKRAN: I’m really interested in how the film develops. At the start he’s living in what seems to be this wonderful place, with all his animals, and then you see these people photographing him, and…

 

MARCIN LESISZ: There’s conflict.

 

EKRAN: Yes. So how did this conflict happen?

 

MARCIN LESISZ: Goran doesn’t have any money or means of support; he just lives like a gypsy in a nomadic way.  So every time somebody comes along the road and asks to take a picture of him with his camel, he asks them to give him some money or food. If he sees 20 tourists trying to take pictures of him at once and they give just one dollar, he’s going to get offended. And that usually leads to a fight or a conflict.  But that’s only because he has this strong character and personality that he can get away with what he does…

 

EKRAN:So what’s next for you?Goran the Camel Man 4

 


MARCIN LESISZ:
  I’m thinking of making a bigger movie about Goran, but now I have to find a new style for this project. Goran is having problems with his camel Ghini. His camel – who is a female – is depressed.  She doesn’t have a partner, and she needs to reproduce with a mate, she needs children. Now Goran is looking for another camel and in Georgia there aren’t any. He was thinking to go to the city of Astrakhan in Russia where there’s a camel market, but because of the Russia-Georgia conflict he can’t go there. So now he’s thinking to go to Azerbaijan. I want to make another movie about Goran because this short was done without any dialogue, only silence and contemplation to make us understand his way of life.  This next film will go deeper into his ideas and will be a follow up to his situation now, where he wants to go and why he decides to go there.

Goran the Camel Man 6

EKRAN: So this will be a feature-length film?

 

MARCIN LESISZ: Yes, I think so. I’m very happy that the short is being presented at a lot of reputable festivals in Poland and now here in Toronto, Canada at Hot Docs – for me that’s a big honor. In Poland it was successful because it won the ‘Zoom’ competition at New Horizons [in Wrocław] and in the Polish section at the Szczecin European Film Festival. It also won in the international section at the Parnu Film Festival in Estonia.

 

Now I’m going to the Cinédoc-Tbilisi festival in Georgia.  I want to meet up with Goran there.  I haven’t had the chance to see him in three years. Maybe there we can write up the script and plan the next movie.

Interview by Jonathan Owen

 

For more information on the film Goran & the Camel Man click here.