VICE interview by Mateusz Góra - rough google translation from Polish with minor edits.

09.27.2017

Do you remember why you decided to make this movie? Was there anything specifically that influenced you?

Z.B.
Yes. It's hard to forget. The general atmosphere of this film stems from many years of being frozen - crushing on various immature gay loves and obsessions - I was a perverse young gay romantic - but when I made this little film [my first video etude - at the film school in Lodz] these unhappy romances were already in the past because I was quite open about my sexuality when I lived in Poland in the 2000s - and I was trying to have "normal" relationships. But unfortunately it only worked 60% of the time .. Because I was immersed in Polish homophobia that hit me and caused flashbacks - because inscribed in this homophobia was an element of shame about my culture - in Poland homophobia is so deeply rooted and closely associated with national complexes - Something that aroused in me even deeper complexes and sometimes I chose schizo-crypto-torture instead of romance .... But also there was one specific event in Lodz - which inspired - if you can say that - this film - I was pretty badly beaten up one night in the underground - in the first week of returning to Poland after 19 years. And now when I look at the film - I understand that this simple film is even deeper for me personally and for my sense of Polishness, because this PASSIVITY is connected with the feeling of impotence that Poles experienced during the war, but also with a traumatic event in my own life when I was abandoned by my parents when I was five years old during the martial law in Poland - such a traumatic childhood experience - with which I’ve dealt my whole life  - which resulted from our rocky transition - and we were separated - in different countries for two years. This moment when the character [played by Marcin Brzozowski] is abandoned by his friend [played by Jasiek Komasa] - this is a moment with which I strongly identify. I would just like to add that when I talk about "complexes" I don’t mean it negatively - you see, complexes are like tangled wires inside my body and brain - and sometimes you can try to disentangle them as a theme for a movie or a theater or VR project ... without them I would be completely different and I accept them somehow.

How would you describe your film - is it more artistic, activist, or can you see between these dimensions a different kind of tension?

Z.B.
I think good art is always radical politically and formally - because it should be like filing a request for a better world. But I do not like and can not think politically at the beginning of a project - because politics is a sphere of power and not of love. I like movies about love and even about confused / twisted / lost love - and these videos are beyond the sphere of politics for me - on the contrary - they can even seem reactionary, ie they seem conservative sometimes - because they are about people and mistakes that do not have relevance - these are problematic films. This video is something primordial and elementary for me - it's my primer - I wasn’t thinking about activism at the time - but in my life I’ve always strived to be an activist - I had an activist heart - I hated [and continue to hate] injustice - because I was raised - by idealists . But my videos are not perfect - they are very human. But now I am starting to work with Krzysztof Garbaczewski in VR - and he creates beautiful worlds - and I write problematic texts - and for some reason it works together - we are currently working with the VR programmer Marta Nawrot on the third floor of the Słowacki Theater in Krakow - we have an underground VR studio in Krakow as part of the Genius Loci festival.



You say that your film school professors did not understand your "gay etudes." What did they say about them? What reactions did you meet with?

Z.B.
Yes. I do not want to criticize this school too much because it was for me generally amazing, valuable initiation - but there was one professor who did not want to show my etudes in class because he said that he did not understand gay topics and therefore couldn’t comment on the filmmaking. It was very unfair because all the other etudes were shown and discussed - he was a self-declared homophobe and he imposed this homophobia on us [I never met such professors in the US] - but it is so banal because its universal! But I was always kind of perverse and sometimes too exaggerated in my etudes - I made this one 10 minute gay contemporarization of the Brothers Karamazov that I filmed at the school studio - where there were some dramatized blowjob scenes - intergenerational - father and son’s friend - and it was too hardcore for a psychological film - none of the sound technicians wanted to hold the boom! But I wanted to test my own ideas and boundaries in the etudes because I wanted to become a real artist. And I learned about the boundaries between eroticism and psychology this way. Actually, in those times filmmakers in New York were interested in the boundary between porn and psychology - but the professors in the Lodz film school were decidedly not. Now my diploma film sponsor, Mariusz Grzegorzek is the king of the school -  well he is the rector, but the graduation dress looks so pompous! - he wears an ermine stole and gold chains - I saw it in a picture - when he was a professor and theatre director I always thought he dressed like a wizard but in fairy tales, wizards do not usually become kings...  I mention it because for me, sometimes Poland has such an overwrought sense of fantasy - which is disturbing because fantasy in real life often balances out with brutal realities - at least if you are observant or you are looking for balance, You always see these two sides … but maybe I’ve picked up some puritan ways of thinking...

Polish VICE interview by Mateusz Góra - rough google translation with minor edits. //director's cut//

Do you remember why you decided to make this movie? Was there anything specifically that influenced you?

Z.B.
I did not know where my old mini-DV cassettes were and recently found an old shoe box where they all were. Of course, I knew that this movie is somewhere and that it is brilliant in its own way ... I love eg the mother figure who feeds her son the grapefruit. I love the dedication of Marcin Brzozowski - who always allowed me to explore my enchanted areas with him. There are amazing pictures by Bartek Kaczmarek - everything in this film is buzzing - it's bad but somehow good. And of course, brilliant 19-year-old Jan Komasa - who's still my friend  - even though he's doing these super-productions now, and I'm doing underground experiments and cult errors - we like each other quite a bit.

How did you get involved in the movie? You mention that Janek is a "gay ally", what do you mean?

Z.B.
I think good art is always radical politically and formally - because it should be like filing a request for a better world. But I do not like and can not think politically at the beginning of a project - because politics is a sphere of power and not of love. I like movies about love and even about confused / twisted / lost love - and these videos are beyond the sphere of politics for me - on the contrary - they can even seem reactionary, ie they seem conservative sometimes - because they are about people and mistakes that do not have relevance - these are problematic films. This video is something primordial and elementary for me - it's my primer - I wasn’t thinking about activism at the time - but in my life I’ve always strived to be an activist - I had an activist heart - I hated [and continue to hate] injustice - because I was raised - by idealists . But my videos are not perfect - they are very human. But now I am starting to work with Krzysztof Garbaczewski in VR - and he creates beautiful worlds - and I write problematic texts - and for some reason it works together - we are currently working with the VR programmer Marta Nawrot on the third floor of the Słowacki Theater in Krakow - we have an underground VR studio in Krakow as part of the Genius Loci festival.



How did you get Jan Komasa involved in the movie? You mention that Janek is a "gay ally", what do you mean?

Z.B.
I wanted to make a documentary about Janek in my first year - I had this terrible fascination with him - but our professor from documentary film forbade it. She said “Janek, watch out Zbyszek is calculated." I was not at all - she was calculated. Janek was unusual - he was the youngest in the year - he was 19 years old - and he was open-minded but had a wife and child and had made a film about Warsaw graffiti artists - he was also a Christian, but he was a bit brutal and very intelligent - and it was a mix that I had never met - I was 5 years older and lived for a few years in New York - and pretended to be sophisticated - I lacked insight - because I really loved all my Polish friends because it was a terrible joy for me to return to the country from which I was torn at the age of five - against my will - to fulfill my father's American Dream. And then this trauma ... This is also the topic that I raise in the new VR with Krzysztof Garbaczewski - Courageous Hearts - where we non-stop pose the question - are you an ally? Janek Komasa is an amazing ally of LGBTQ people- and other minorities too - he, like me, does not tolerate injustice. I am lucky because I have some great Polish friends.

You do not directly show the connection between the characters, you build tension between them. You just tap into the potential of glances and ambiguous gestures…  Was this your gay world or could you just not show things more graphically?

Z.B.
I wanted to make a film that everyone can relate to. I knew that if there were gay erotic scenes this movie would not be universal - it could not unite gay and heterosexual viewers - which is what interested me. Where is the border between so-called brotherly love and gay love?  Maybe it is a flow - continuum. I like to think about it. I think there are some interesting nuances here - they are very important in this short form - for example, we see them together only playing video games and once against a videowall - which is an attempt to show their virtual relationship - and that is important - I wanted to impose such a split - what are they to each other? This is the world of unrequited gay love - you think nonstop - is he my friend - or is there anything more between us? I wanted to see this situation from the outside, objectively. After all, maybe this character played by Marcin Bzrozowski - he feels that he imagined it all - because Janek's character does not save him - not because he is evil - but he knows that if he saves him - then he will fall even even deeper in love - somehow not saving him [from deep poisonous unrequited love] is saving him - I wanted to make a realistic film - the character played by Marcin Brzozowski completely turns 180 degrees - he shaves his head - becomes a skinhead - as if he was infected by the skinheads who beat him up - in this film the heteros are the ones who have something infectious ... aggression.

The title itself, "Passivity," speaks of our attitude towards violence against minorities. When you look at this film and the reality around you, what kind of changes do you see?

Z.B.
I moved out of Poland [the second time] in 2008 because I was persecuted by The All-Polish Youth. They called me a non-stop and said they would put a drill in my anus with a very large drill bit and turn it on - I do not remember what size the drill bit was supposed to be - but they described it in great detail and they kept calling with various threats and in the end I somehow did not feel good about it - and I went back to New York . Homophobia is everywhere - but in Poland it really should not exist - we are an amazing country full of sensitive people who have survived so many terrible things - we can not afford to repeat those old banal superstitions. We need to delete our words that humiliate homosexuals - and understand that this is not about political correctness - but the way we think in language is linked to ideas - because we express  ideas through language - on one hand we know that words can mean nothing but we also know ideas can change the world. I am an ally of incredible ideas and I know that we must appease each others’ deepest desires to survive in this world. I work not to be passive and to do what is responsible - even if it is “correct.” Is this how people think now in Poland? You answer me - I have not lived here in a long time, but I miss it and want to come back - is it safe?

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