Poland | 2015 | 70 mins | Polish | Indian Premiere
This moving documentary focuses on Mieczysław and Alfons Kulakowski, two elderly Polish brothers who, as children, were deported to a Siberian work camp. In the 1940s, they escaped to live in various locations in the USSR—Mieczysław working as a cartographer and Alfons as a painter. The siblings returned to their ancestral home in the late 1990s and, although now both in their 90s, live self-sufficiently, depending only upon one another. Director Wojciech Staroń has paid regular visits to them over the years, becoming part of their daily lives. His calm portrait exudes a fascinating vigour, filling the screen with a certain purity and giving the brothers the space to slowly reveal their lives. There is no unnecessary movement in the frame and the Kulakowskis remain largely untalkative, whilst the past is rendered in skillfully incorporated 8mm clips illustrating their time in exile.
Wojciech Staroń was born in 1973 in Poland. A graduate of the National Film School in Lodz, his first documentary was Siberian Lesson (1998), followed by A Time to live (1999), For a While (2005) and Argentinean Lesson (2011). “For me, the most important elements in a documentary are the things that happen now,” says Wojciech. “The past is only an additional layer, to which we have limited access. I think even the most tragic events of the past do not have as much impact as the present. I shot incredible interviews with the [Kulakowski] brothers, presenting their exile to Siberia, their imprisonment in a gulag, their escape, etc, but I preferred to show them in silence today and to look for the traces of the past in the observation of the present day.”