Piotr Stasik (b. 1976) is a documentary film-maker, an organizer of cultural activities, and the creator of Dziennik z Podróży (Diary of a Journey) and Koniec Lata (The Last Day of Summer).
He has received awards at festivals in Wiesbaden and Perm for the short film Koniec Lata (The Last Day of Summer). At the Camerimage Festival, he was bestowed with the Golden Frog. Another of his films, Dziennik z Podróży (Diary of a Journey) has been rewarded in Kiev, Kraków and Łagów. Piotr Stasik lives a life of travel - between countries, continents and different projects. With equal curiosity, he looks at the students of a Russian cadet school, the Polish inhabitants of the provinces and New Yorkers met on the subway.
I like to be on the go. It is easier for me to meet people this way– he said in an interview with Tadeusz Sobolewski for Gazeta Wyborcza – being a stranger, I can ask whatever I want and can penetrate the inner life of places and people. In Burma, New York or New Zealand, I quickly get inside. And when I come back to Poland, it is easier for me to talk, it's easier for me to bear Poland.
Stasik’s road to becoming a film director does not resemble the classic film biography. He was born in a village near Sieradz, 200km from Warsaw.
All of my ancestors were farmers, so I was sure that I would follow in their footsteps – Stasiak revealed to Piotr Czerkawski from Dziennik. Gazeta Prawna. Back then it seemed so abstract to me to even work as a clerk, let alone a film director.
He grew up in the countryside. He helped his parents on the farm and in the nearby marketplace, he used to sell cucumbers and potatoes. These days he assures that the peaceful atmosphere of the village shaped his sensitivity and imagination. He always did a lot of reading, borrowing one book after another from the local library. When the resources of the library became insufficient, he started to buy books during weekly trips to Sieradz.
Quite early on, he got interested in cinema. The television in his family house received only one channel - public Jedynka. However, it presented some classics, so he watched Bergman, Tarkovsky, Zanussi and Andrzej Wajda.
I did not really understand those films, but in a way I have soaked them up. From these TV sessions arose the desire to get involved with the cinema - he admits in an interview with Culture.pl.
As a teenager, he used to travel the 200 km to Warsaw to watch the most interesting new releases in Muranów cinema. However, he never applied to the Polish Film School. He lacked self-confidence, and studying film directing seemed too elitist to him. As a result, he studied sociology and became engaged in social activities. After many years, he decided to participate in a documentary course run by the Wajda School.
"He is something of a missionary of culture" - wrote Tadeusz Sobolewski about Stasiak. It is because Stasiak is not only a film director but also an animator of cultural activities. In the Film Nursery School run by the Film School of Wajda, he taught children the basics of filmmaking. In 2002, he founded Towarzystwo Inicjatyw Twórczych “ę” (Society for Creative Initiatives "ę"), whose task was to "create a world where people with passion work for themselves and for others." He has organized film and photographic workshops, as well as an overview of underground - Jutro Kina (Cinema of Tomorrow).
In 2008, together with Thierry Paladino, Maciej Cuske and Marcin Sauter, he created Film Studio Paladino which independently produced a film titled Andrzej Wajda: Róbmy zdjęcie! (Andrzej Wajda: Let's Shoot!). It is one of the most witty and most authentic documentary portraits of the Polish master. In 2008-2010, he was also the president of the Film 1,2 Association that supports young artists in the realization of their debut and second films.
After completing the course on documentary filmmaking at the Wajda School, I still had the feeling that I did not know exactly how to deal with the matter of cinema – recalls Stasiak in an interview for Culture.pl. - I even thought of changing my career path.
Everything changed when he was invited to participate in the film project Rosja – Polska. Nowe Spojrzenie (Russia-Poland. New Look). Within the framework of this project, Stasik made the documentary film 7xMoskwa, which was very well received at festivals. Moreover, students of VGIK, a prestigious film school in Moscow, considered the film an exemplary documentary film about Moscow.
He has visited Russia several times. One of the outcomes of his trips is a documentary made in 2010 – Koniec lata (The Last Day of Summer). It tells the story of students from the school of cadets in Russian Penza, 700 km away from Moscow. Provincial Russia reminded him of Poland two decades ago, and the lives of young protagonists of his film reflected his own childhood. In this documentary, he depicted the everyday life of young boys, political indoctrination and the end of childhood.
By telling the stories of others, he also speaks about himself. In the short film Ponad chodnikami (Above Sidewalks) made in 2008, he showed an eminently capable 17-year-old boy from provincial Szlarska Poręba. To get to school, his protagonist had to get up at 5 in the morning. After high school classes, he went to music school, returning home after 8pm to practice Chopin’s compositions on a dilapidated piano. One day, the boy received an invitation to a music workshop, during which he met his champion - Hungarian pianist Szabolcs Esztén.
When I was a teenager, and when I was digging potatoes, I dreamed of a champion coming to see me - Stasik said in an interview for Trójka radio station after the release of Dziennik z Podróży.
After years, with this very film he fulfilled a dream of travelling with "the master". The idea behind the film was inspired by Michał, a fifteen-year-old student of Stasik from Przedszkole Filmowe (Film Nursery) of Wajda School, who wanted to make a film about Tadeusz Rolke. The film was not shot eventually, but he asked Rolke, the Polish master of photography, to teach him how to take pictures. His camper van was turned into a photographic darkroom, and they hit the road across Poland. Stasik joined them in order to record a story about master and apprentice. However, the documentary he made turned out to be something more - a moving portrait of the artist and a story of the curiosity of life, which cannot be destroyed by old age.
Dziennik z Podróży was awarded at the 53rd Kraków Film Festival in 2013, and received the Golden Grape for Best Documentary Film at Lubusz Summer of Films. In 2014, it received the Andriy Matrosov Prize at the Docudays UA festival in Kiev.
In 2014, together with Maciej Kuziemski, Stasik initiated a project called Domestic Product. In an off-road vehicle with an inflatable cinema screen of 40 square metres, a generator unit and a projector, they set off on a journey from Warsaw to Rangoon through Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Romania. In the towns they passed through, they organized open-air screenings of Polish films: from fairy tales for children, the documentaries, to the classic of Polish animation.
The author of Dziennik z Podróży is not slowing down. In the summer of 2014, he went to the U.S. to make a documentary film about people encountered on the New York subway. At the same time, he is also working on a documentary … opera about modern Poland, a project that combines music with a documentary.
Author: Bartosz Staszczyszyn, 10.07.2014, trans. GS, 11.07.2014
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