Anna Zamecka, PL 2016, 70'
World Premiere
Thursday August 11th, 11.00, Cinema Teatro Kursaal
Friday August 12th, 18.30, L'altra Sala

en / it / de / fr

A boy who is about 10 years old scolds himself for not managing to slide his belt through the loops. Nikodem imitates his sister Ola’s tone. Unmoved, she is staring at a drawing on which the words “No mongos” can be read. However, Nikodem was not born with Down syndrome; he is autistic. Now, he is preparing for his first communion by swallowing banana slices so that he will be able to do it properly with the host. Also, he tends to find deadly sins and theological virtues confusing. He wonders why love should be a virtue if kissing is so disgusting and why gluttony should be a sin. To witness this argument with the priest is a welcome distraction from Nikodem and Ola’s grim life. Their father is an alcoholic who never steps in. He stays away from the camera and from his responsibilities as a family man. And the mother? Throughout the first half of this moving documentary, she can only be heard. As we slowly get to know, she lives with another man and her new baby. She first appears after about 40 minutes on 1990 video tapes where she is seen as a girl, wearing her communion dress, and then in the present during her son’s Eucharistic ceremony. Communion has a two-fold structure: it starts by focusing on religion, which is then replaced by the mother. In the end, Ola will have to realise that neither can fill the emptiness in her life. Nikodem had it all figured out for a good while. When he says “adults have problems children cannot understand”, he proves to be a wise fool as if he were a character in a Shakespeare play.

In her first feature documentary, Polish director and anthropologist Anna Zamecka manages an affectionate access to both children. The camera holds back when Ola, usually such a strong girl, starts crying. She is the centre both of the film and her family. In spite of her yearning for motherly love and her tedious life in a gloomy apartment, Ola’s charisma, her pragmatism, and her somewhat harsh care for her brother make it possible for the film to avoid creating a desolate atmosphere. There is a bit of optimism in there, when the teenager can finally behave like everyone else as the gym turns into a disco, or when Nikodem eventually manages to slide his belt through all the loops in his trousers as the film concludes.

Flavia Giorgetta