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Biography of Poet Bronislawa Wajs aka Papusza, 1908-87
Shot beautifully in b/w and part-funded by the Polish Film Institute, this is an outstanding production. Particularly strong backdrops are conveyed through the camping scenes, the travelling way of life with multiple horse drawn waggons, and their minstrelling engagements, (see the brilliant scene in the jail), all powered by a vibrant soundtrack. The film attests to the struggle that this way of life entails for each generation of the Polish Roma people, as well as the strongly inter-dependent nature of these communities, pushed to societies margins.
It makes even the most benevolent non Roma become a cursed outsider, ( an excellent Antoni Pawlicki). Chronology switches back and forth through fifty years, mostly to reveal how and why Papusza acquired her poetic talents, but the film never loses its sense of authenticity or fails to convey the deep sense of degradation that the Roma community are made to feel by all levels of the State, and by the established community around them.
This is not however a political film at all. In my view, it is much more a romantic tragedy of lost rights, lost affection, and alienation of non-conformists by society, whilst all the time pointing out that the real loser remains the community itself, and the significance of this loss to the European social anatomy.
The outsider Jerzy Fikowski was the first professional writer to characterize Roma customs and their way of life in words. The tragedy he creates is the distrust that he sows from the moment he enters the story, himself a fugitive, in the campsite where the film begins. The film was five years in preparation much of it filmed in the wilds of Eastern Poland, not so very far from where Hitler built his most elaborate hiding grounds, in the final months of the Third Reich. This film must surely be the most-polished jewel of 2103's London Film Festival but there is little to indicate that the organizers see this for the treasure it surely is.
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