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A victim, who is (not) guilty – A meeting with Magdalena Łazarkiewicz following the screening of her film “Powrót”

photo: Natalia Wieczorek

After watching the latest film by Magdalena Łazarkiewicz Powrót (2018), screened at the 17th edition of the Tofifest International Film Festival, the audience had an opportunity to see and talk to two people involved in its making, i.e. its director Magdalena Łazarkiewicz and actress Agnieszka Warchulska.

Powrót is about a 19-year-old girl from a very religious family, who was kidnapped and forced into prostitution at a brothel in Germany. We meet the girl at the time when she comes back to her home town, after two years of forced prostitution. Instead of offering her support and sympathy, the local community ostracises her and her relatives show aversion to her – nobody there sees a victim in her, instead treating her like a sinner and a disgrace to her family.

This shocking and disturbing story is based on true events. Magdalena Łazarkiewicz revealed that her cooperation with social workers, when working on the TV series Głęboka woda / The Deep End (a television series dedicated to social workers broadcast via Telewizja Polska in the years 2011-2013), became a source of inspiration for writing the script for her latest film. The film director also collected information from the La Strada International network combating the trafficking of persons in Europe.

Naturally, not all of the events presented in the film actually happened in the life of the protagonist, although both artists sadly admitted that the situations portrayed in Powrót were in fact quite similar to the current social reality in Poland, where victims of rape are interrogated as suspects (it is suggested that they could provoke such sexual assaults). Magdalena Łazarkiewicz also addressed a situation, which occurred a little while ago in the region of Lower Silesia. A girl, 18, was brutally raped by a person she knew well, but a local community took the side of the attacker, because they believed he was a good man and an altar server. The film director claimed that she intended to make Powrót as a portrait of a situation in which the victim and the abuser switch places.

Agnieszka Warchulska, who plays the mother of the girl, emphasised that the film was not intended as an open attack on religion or the Catholic Church, and all scenes involving liturgies were made with due respect to the Catholic tradition, without any attempts to ridicule people participating in them. It comes as an interesting observation that viewers in other countries (the film was screened in the USA, for example) did not find the religious layer of the film as interesting, as viewers in Poland did. Magdalena Łazarkiewicz declared that it was not her intention to make a film commenting on current affairs, as she believes was the case with Kler / Clergy by Wojciech Smarzowski. What I was looking for was for it to have the quality of a parable. It is not a lifelike little story, although it may seem to be one. Everything here is an artistic creations, said the director during the meeting.

Those, who did not make to the festival to see the film, will have a chance to see it on Netflix or VOD.

Anna Dwojnych

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