"MY PROTAGONISTS DO NOT LIVE IN A SOAP BUBBLE EVERYDAY" - INTERVIEW WITH ANASTAZJA DĄBROWSKA, THE AUTHOR OF THE FILM "DANIEL"
"Daniel" by Anastazja Dąbrowska will have its international premiere at upcoming DOK Leipzig festival and shortly after it will be presented at IDFA Student Competition. Read the interview with the director.
Daniel Stopa: How did you get acquainted with Daniel, the eponymous protagonist of your film?
Anastazja Dąbrowska: I met Daniel during the Occupational Therapy Workshop "Open Doors." At the time, I was looking for couples with mental disabilities who would like to get married. One day we went to a talent competition, where Daniel played the piano. It went without a hitch, he got storms of applause, because he plays very well. Immediately after him, it was his friend's turn to play. He was doing well, but from time to time, he made a mistake and was terribly annoyed by it. Daniel stood by his side and gave him his support, even when his friend pushed him away and vented his anger on him. In the end, both bowed in front of the audience, just like masters. During our later conversation, I plucked up my courage to ask him whether there was a special someone with whom he would like to be together. His confession that there was such a person made me think more and more often about this subject matter. This is how the idea for the film germinated.
In the film, you portray people with Down's syndrome. What I like about it is the fact that you do not artificially embellish their lives, that one can feel that there is a boundary, which is hard to cross, a boundary of the world which is inaccessible to the protagonists. In one of the scenes, Daniel confides in front of his friend and the camera that he would like to live differently. It is followed by a long silence...
This results from the fact that my protagonists do not live in a soap bubble everyday – they are aware of the place where the film conflict was born – because how it is possible to be with someone if you are not fully self-reliant and when your beloved is not fully self-reliant, either. Who is right: the people who say "be together," or their parents, who are afraid that if there are children, they will have to take care about them? Or maybe the interested party himself, who "would love to, but should not"? There are no easy answers here, if any answers exist at all.
At the same time, in the film you managed to tell about an extremely strong friendship between the participants of the summer camp for people with Down's syndrome. I mean, among others, the relationship between Daniel and Janek. Many of us would like to have a companion such as Jan…
Janek is a very cool guy, just like the whole group with whom I spent my time. In this environment, you learn very quickly whether what you are doing is all right or not. Emotions are expressed in a stronger way. During the first meeting, I had no idea how to behave, but after 5 minutes, the tension was gone. It suited me that I do not have to be in the world where you have to guess what is the matter with someone – because if it is well, you can feel it, and when it is bad, someone lets you know about it at once.Relationships based on such sincerity are for me one of the foundations of friendship, but you have to approach difficult issues in a delicate way. Janek talks with Daniel about tricky issues – being with a girlfriend, having children, the desire to lead a different life - with a lot of tact and empathy.
You mentioned that after a couple of minutes, the tension between you and the protagonists was gone. What was the key to gaining their trust?
I simply was with them, we spent time together and talked. We had time to get acquainted. During the summer camp, which lasted two weeks, we were filming almost every day, for about 3 hours. We spent a large portion of our time together on typical summer camp activities - going to the disco, to the beach, trips and excursions - at times I felt rather as a participant than a director. I think that for the boys I often was rather a friend with whom they could dance than a film-maker.
Often, in case of making films with people with Down's syndrome, there emerge the questions about the morality of the documentary film-maker. Doubts what to show, what not to film, what kind of liberties can the director take? Did you also have to face such problems?
Daniel's close ones had misgivings about this film, which is totally understandable – you know, I'll make the film, and someone'll stay with it, because it tells about his life. However, I was able to convince them that as a documentary film-maker, I feel a moral obligation to protect my protagonist and do not hurt him by this film. It seems to me that morality ends where ends the truth about the person whose story the director is telling. The film-maker – depending on his or her sensitivity – is capable of sensing where is the boundary which they should not cross.
You got very close to the protagonists thanks to this film. Are you still in touch?
Sometimes we call each other, recently they started to live together in a training flat. The last time I saw them was on the occasion of the screening, when I could see them all for the first time after watching the film. The boys are proud that their friendship, which lasts until now, was shown in the film. I think that in order to make a good film about a person, you have to know him or her well. To do this, you have to experience something together, spend some time together - build a relationship. It would be very difficult to do this if you did not like someone.
Thank you very much for the interview.