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"I am" tells the story of Kundel, a boy searching for his place in life, his identity. After running away from an orphanage where he is treated as an outcast among outcasts by both his peers and the adults in charge... See full synopsis »
Visual poem about an outsider child, almost too pretty, but lovely to watch
Dorota Kedzierzawska: "I Am"/"Jestem" (Poland, 2005). 100 minutes. No US distributor. Shown at the New York Film Festival, Lincoln Center, September 27, 2005.
An eleven-year-old (Piotr Jagielski) escapes from an orphanage and returns to his hometown where the other kids call him "Mongrel" and his young alcoholic mother (Edyta Jungowska) kicks him out again. Undaunted, he sets up quarters of his own in an abandoned barge. "Mongrel's" survival stratagems and day-to-day encounters show he's not only resourceful but a fundamentally good person. He and an unhappy girl his age (Agnieszka Nagorzycka) from a posh house nearby discover a sense of affection and love in each other's company. "Mongrel" forages, sells scrap metal, and deals with some of the adults in town. Dreaming of being a poet some day, he avoids the bad kids who chase him and sniff glue and doesn't drink or smoke. Prize-winning cinematographer Arthur Reinhardt used systems of bungee cords to stay close to the young actors and eschewed steadicams and hand-held cameras. Panovision Polska actually donated funds and equipment. The resulting gorgeous soft-colored sepia-toned wide-screen images make this quiet film beautiful to behold, and the director has an extraordinary way with child actors. Composer Michael Nyman (who did the scores for five Peter Greenaway films as well as "The Piano," "Gattaca," and "The End of the Affair") has provided music that's both sweeping and intimate. This is no "Ratcatcher" or "400 Blows": this boy is marginal and independent enough to create his own wholly separate world -- at least for a while. It's unlikely this would attract a wide audience, and the images are almost too pretty and tend to highlight a certain Polyannaish spunkyness that at times infringes on the true secrets of childhood with adult philosophizing. At the press screening however, Kedzierzawska explained that the main character was based on a real child she met who lived in the woods and dreamed of being a poet.
The director and cinematographer were on hand for questions after the NYFF press screening, which helped clarify the movie's inspiration and how it was made.
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