On my radar: Paweł Pawlikowski’s cultural highlights

The Polish film-maker, who won best director at Cannes 2018 for Cold War, on a cult rapper, a Khazakh documentary-maker – and watching every World Cup match

Polish director Paweł Pawlikowski was born in Warsaw in 1957, his father a doctor and his mother a ballerina, and moved to the UK at the age of 14. In 2004 he directed My Summer of Love, starring Emily Blunt, and in 2015 his film Ida won the Oscar for best foreign language film. This year he won the award for best director at Cannes for Cold War, a drama loosely inspired by his parents’ lives during the Soviet era, in cinemas Friday.

1. Festival

Sarajevo film festival

Croatian actor Leon Lucev with his award for best actor for The Load at the Sarajevo film festival 2018.
Croatian actor Leon Lucev with his award for best actor for The Load at the Sarajevo film festival 2018. Photograph: Elvis Barukcic/AFP/Getty Images

I’ve just come back from this – a wonderful festival in a haunting city, with Turkish, Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslav heritage and architecture mixed up in a unique way. When you watch films in a place where history feels so palpable and recent, they acquire a different resonance. I made a documentary (Serbian Epics) in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war and went there many times before and after. So the festival brought back a lot of memories. It was a very vibrant multicultural city before the war. The festival manages to recreate that spirit, if only for a couple of weeks.

2. Film

No Man’s Land (dir: Danis Tanović, 2001)

A scene from No Man’s Land
A scene from No Man’s Land. Photograph: handout

While at the festival, back at the hotel I showed my wife this Bosnian film, which won an Oscar 17 years ago. It’s a powerful tragicomic tale set in the trenches of the Bosnian war. Part realist drama, part a timeless Beckettian parable, it’s about two soldiers from opposite sides trapped in a murderous Catch 22 situation. The experience of the Bosnian war and the disintegration of Yugoslavia feels incredibly relevant these days in Europe, so it’s definitely worth thinking about.

Dorota Masłowska Inni ludzie

3. Book

Dorota Masłowska’s “Inni ludzie” (Other People)

I’m just reading this wonderful book, which is a kind of polyphonic poem in rapping verse, where characters are cartoonish and the real protagonist is language. Masłowska exploded on to the Polish literary scene at the tender age of 18, but far from being a flash in the pan, she goes from strength to strength with each book. It’s a hilarious, though deeply melancholy poem about the erosion of Polish society: the cars are expensive, relations cheap, aspirations are high and motives low.

4. Documentary

Sergey Dvortsevoy’s Bread Day; Paradise; In the Dark

A scene from Bread Day
A scene from Bread Day. Photograph: Jane Balfour Films

Dvortsevoy’s films are unique – he reinvented documentary-making for me. He makes films about people trying to eke out an existence in a post-Soviet world – mainly Kazakhstan and Russia – but it’s the way they’re done that makes them masterpieces. He does long takes, with no cuts or directorial manipulation, conjuring up scenes where twists and punchlines emerge with God-given grace. He gets there by shooting for a long time and waiting for as long as it takes for reality to reveal its dramatic shape.

5. Music

Taco Hemingway

Hear 4AM in Girona by Taco Hemingway.

I’d never heard of Taco Hemingway, but it turns out he’s a huge cult figure in Poland among young people. His agent called me because Taco wanted to use the dialogue from a scene in Cold War in one of his songs, called 4am in Girona. So I listened to some of his work and I thought it was great – his music has a trance-like mood, but above all he’s really inventive with words and he does have something to say too. And via him my stepson introduced me to another rapper, a guy called Tyler, the Creator, who’s pretty brilliant and out there.

6. Opera

Madama Butterfly at Polish National Opera

Madama Butterfly
‘An extraordinary piece of opera’: Madama Butterfly. Photograph: Krzysztof Bielinski

Something that really stunned me not long ago was this production, directed by [Mariusz] Treliński. It was an extraordinary piece of opera, beautifully realised and very original. I love the music of Madama Butterfly anyway, but it’s very difficult to give it a form that makes you enter that world, and see music as more than just music. Usually in opera I just listen to the greatest hits and let the spectacle wash over me a bit, whereas here the spectacle went hand-in-hand with the music rather brilliantly. I was bowled over.

7. Sport

The World Cup

Luka Modric and Ante Rebic after Croatia’s second goal in the World Cup win over Nigeria.
Luka Modric and Ante Rebic after Croatia’s second goal in the World Cup win over Nigeria. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The truth is that I spent most of the summer watching the World Cup. I watched every game religiously – so this was the main cultural experience of the last two months for me. I was depressed by how badly Poland played – we overhyped the side before the tournament, while they were clearly a team of players in decline. But I loved the team spirit and the lack of narcissism in plucky Japan and Croatia. I loved how they played – how their individual skills (high especially in the case of the Croats) were put at the service of the team, and star status didn’t interfere.


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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