Kuba Czekaj is a director and screenwriter, known for Baby Bump and Twist and Blood. He was born in Wrocław in 1984.
Before he made his first feature, he was already known as the most awarded Polish director of short films – he won more than sixty prizes at Polish and international festivals for his student films.
He graduated from the Krzysztof Kieślowski Radio and Television Department of the Silesia University and the ‘Rehearsal Studio’ Feature Programme at Andrzej Wajda’s Master Directing School.
In his student film Piece of Heaven (2006) he told the story of a hospice nurse who accompanies her patients at the moment of death. House of Roses, shot three years later, was an impression of the loneliness of a woman who has to pretend she’s someone she’s not, even among her closest family.
A subject he often raised, even in his earliest student films, was childhood and growing up. He told the story of a little boy in the 30-minute-long Beyond the Horizon, with cinematography by Tomasz Woźniczka, who won the Złota Kijanka award at the Camerimage festival in 2007.
The film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark Room (2009) was also a story about the confrontation between childhood and adulthood. Czekaj shows an 11-year-old girl who loves her father to death. While preparing a song for a school play planned for Father’s Day, she starts to unravel his hidden secrets. For this movie he was honoured at festivals in Warsaw, Kioto, Tirana, Kosovo, Kraków and Gdynia, and also the title of Trójka’s Talent – the award of the third station of Polish Radio.
In 2010 he shot another widely recognized short. Twist & Blood told the story of a 11-year old boy called Brzucho (‘the Belly’) by his peers and laughed at because of his corpulence. Brzucho has a mysterious way of unloading negative emotions and his only trustee is his friend, who he’s in love with.
Twist & Blood, when seen alongside Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark Room, shot for the ’30 minutes programme’, forms and interesting diptych about children growing up. Inspiration from Dorota Kędzierzawska’s work can be noticed here. The director himself admits that meeting the director of Crows and Time to Die, was an important factor in choosing his profession. The inspiration is not purely thematic – it’s also present in how little protagonists are observed and how their characters are built through the way the world they see is pictured. The consolatory tone of these stories is confronted with brutal reality of the adult world, and on this junction first experiences of growing up are born – they’re mostly painful, but real.
– wrote Konrad J. Zarębski for Culture.pl.
Czekaj also speaks of the pains of growing up in Baby Bump, his feature debut, realized in the Biennale Cinema Collage programme. Nominating Czekaj to Polityka’s Passport, Tadeusz Sobolewski wrote, that ‘he’s a revelation and a new personality, full of enthusiasm and invention; he’s an author who has his subject – leaving childhood, a boy’s fight for himself with his family, his environment and his own body’.
The film, which cost just 150 thousand euro, won the Queer Lion Award at the Venice Film Festiva and earned its maker a nomination for the prestigious Polityka’s Passport.
We created an original world, far from reality. Baby Bump is like a filmed comic book to me. This aesthetics can be seen in the editing, in the way frames are composed, in the colours. We play with images from a very specific time in a person’s life. Growing up is often shown from the perspective of spots on the forehead, a breaking voice, and some great rebellion. I wanted to talk about something that is rarely touched: about the body, about the sexuality of a little boy who will soon become a man.
– he said in an interview with Małgorzata Steciak for Interia.
While shooting Baby Bump he simultaneously also worked on The Erlprince - his second feature, which premiered in the Main Competition at the Gdynia Film Festival in 2016.
What is The Erlprince about? It is a story about trying to build some autonomy, about missing your father and having a great need of love - says the director. - With the crew we laugh at the slogan 'The Boy died, the Young Man is born', but there's something right about it as well.
The director underlines that both films are connected by the subject of growing up, but that he doesn't want to work on it forever. - I have to end with these trips into childhood, I'm going to show also older children now - announced the director ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 20.09.2016).
At the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in 2017 Czekaj got the Baumi Award, granted for the most interesting script development. Receiving the award is tantamount to being given 20,000 euros for the development of the film titled Sorry, Polsko [editor's translation: Sorry, Poland], a story of a 40-year-old dancer disillusioned with life. The finished script was appreciated at Cannes festival in 2017 and granted the ScripTeast award for the best screenplay from Eastern and Central Europe.
Author: Bartosz Staszczyszyn, sources: Polityka.pl, Interia.pl, transl. N. Mętrak-Ruda, updated: May 2017.