Argentinian Lesson’s protagonists are two children. Wojciech Staroń’s son, the eight year old Janek, and his new Argentinian friend, Marcia, show how friendship narrows the gap between heterogeneous cultures. Faced with the challenge of a new language, strange customs and a school in the middle of the rainforest, Janek gets to know this new world through the eyes of Marcia. Still a child, Marcia is forced to act like a responsible adult. She takes care of her brother and her mother by making clay bricks while searching for her father, who works in the rice fields hundreds of kilometres away.
Staron's film is a story about overcoming cultural gaps and entering into real life. 'Through this piece of Argentina I wanted to show the phenomenon of people who live there, not of the folklore to paint a portrait of the way they are and act. The contrast between the images and the sound aims to underline the feeling of being strangers in a foreign country' the documentary filmmaker said in an interview for the magazine Kino.
Argentinian Lesson is the result of the two years Staroń spent living in Argentina. This is the second time he has made a film about his life. In the 1998 documentary Siberian Lesson, he pictured the developing love between himself and his future wife. In this film, Janek is the child of the love between a filmmaker and a Polish teacher, travels to Siberia to visit the exiled descendants of Poles. For Siberian Lesson, Staroń received the Grand Cinema du Reel Festival in Paris. Talking to Donata Subbotko from Gazeta Wyborcza he says,
I usually build a storyline with documentary segments. The scenes aren't staged, I don't tell the protagonists what they should say. I collect live material and then I tell the story like I choose to. The biggest thing is the editing, the construction of what eloped from reality. I'm interested in observing everyday life, especially when it's linked to overcoming challenges. I life to expierience everything on myself. The camera for me, is part of the body.
Full of 'poetic images', as critic Bartosz Staszczyszyn writes in an article for Culture.pl, the film was shot on 16mm photosensitive tape. 'The director's choice,' Staszczyszyn says, 'is more than the technical detail and delicate, well light structure of the photos – it's also a way of coping with financial limitations'. 'When I turn on the camera, I have to be sure that I am doing it at the right moment', Staron said in an interview for Culture.pl, 'As of then, I can start editing the film in my head because I remember every separate shot of the movie-to-be'. His two-year stay in Argentina resulted in 10 hours of material.
Argentinian Lesson is considered the most recognisable Polish documentary of 2012, and it won Best Documentary at the Let's CEE Film Festival in Vienna in June 2012. The Viennese Jury chose the film for 'its particularly insightful look at the world that moves beyond the usual stereotypes and cinematic schemes'.
- January 2013, Spotlight Award for Staron from the New York Museum of the Moving Image, part of the Cinema Eye Honors Awards for documentary filmmakers
- November 2012, Grand Prize for Best Medium Length film at the Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal Festival in Montreal, Canada
- June 2012, Best Documentary at the Festival of Central and East European Cinema – Let’s CEE in Vienna, Austria
- 2011, Grand Prize of the Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival in Canton
- The Silver Pigeon at the DOK Leipzig Film Festival, Germany
- Prize for Directing at the 52nd Festival dei Popoli in Florence, Italy
Sources: Let's CEE Film Festival, RIDM Montreal
Editor: Marta Jazowska