Picturing the developing love between Wojciech Staroń and his future wife, the documentary is the director's first film. Wojciech and Małgorzata travel to Siberia to visit the descendants of Poles sent into exiled to Siberia.
Małgorzata is a Polish language teacher. Wojciech Staroń is a graduate of the directing department of a film school. To the astonishment of everyone else, they decide to go to Siberia to work there. She wants to teach Polish to descendants of the Polish exiles from the times of tsarist Russia, while he wants to make a film. They stay for a year in a town of Usolje Sibirskoje at Angara, 100 kilometres from the Baikal Lake. They live among great poverty, unemployment and strikes. This "other world", after many years of fearful Communist rule, has been transformed into a "red desert", a place that seems to be impossible to live in. Yet, there are people in this degraded reality. They are poor, but they frequently have beautiful souls. They are open, kind and long for a better life like anyone else. Thanks to them, Małgosia and Wojtek were able to live through the worst moments of the severe Siberian winter. Without them, Małgosia and Wojtek would not have been able to live through their most beautiful moments. The last statement that Małgosia makes in the film is "I wish that life were always as good as here, in Siberia". It is a quite surprising farewell to Siberia, especially for Poles, who resentfully associate this part of the world with the history of national martyrdom.
This film seems to be a picture of the horrible life in Russia and the spiritual emptiness after the fall of the empire. However, the director strangely managed to find in this bareness something important, thanks to his girlfriend and future wife. The two Poles carry certain emptiness within themselves as well, but it is filled under the influence of people they meet there. Thus, Siberia becomes a spiritual experience that leads the two protagonists towards a spiritual transformation, as if they were heroes from Old Russian literature." (Tadeusz Sobolewski, "Gazeta Wyborcza")
- Syberyjska lekcja / The Siberian Lessons. Poland, 1998. Director, screenplay, cinematography: Wojciech Staroń. Music: Agata Steczkowska. Sound: Spas Christow. Editing: Zbigniew Osiński. Production management: Anna Wojdat. Production: Studio Filmowe "Kronika", TVP Channel 1. Colour, 58 min.
- Grand Prix at the International Festival of Anthropology "Cinéma du Réel" in Paris, 1999;
- FIPRESCI mention at the Documentary Films Festival in Amsterdam,1999;
- award for debut at the Szczecin Small Documentary Review, 1999;
- Silver Hobby-Horse [Lajkonik] and Canal+ award at the Cracow Festival of Documentaries and Short Films, 1998;
- Andrzej Munk Award for best directorial and cinematographical debut of 1998;
- Grand Prix at the "Man under Threat" Media Festival in Łódź, 1998.
Source: the catalogue "Young Polish Cinema", published by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, June 2007
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