We catch up with the award-winning Polish director about the challenges of directing a feature debut

Flying Blind is the directional feature debut by award-winning Polish director, Katarzyna Klimkiewicz, about a woman's battle with prejudice and love when involved with her French/Algerian student. Starring Helen McCrory and Kenneth Cranham, we catch up with her about the challenges of directing a feature, tackling a controversial topic and her thoughts on the current filmmaking state.


STUDIO: Congratulations on your first feature debut Flying Blind. How do you feel now it's completed?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: Yeah, I'm very happy [because] you know it was my first film and I've made that step [forward] and I'm glad it's coming out in cinemas in England and Poland, you know I'm kind of proud (laughs).


STUDIO: Well done! Be proud! It's a great film and we really enjoyed it! What interested and inspired you to direct Flying Blind?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: I was approached by a producer who had the idea and they were looking for a director. When Alison Sterling (producer) pitched the idea to me, she used the phrase 'it was about a woman who had the rug pulled from under her feet', and was the kind of expression that really spoke to me. I saw this strong, strong woman who is suddenly confronted by all her fears and she has to find a new balance and answer a lot of questions, and I liked that, and I also like that it has a strong female protagonist. What was also interesting for me was how the love relationship intertwined with the bigger picture, and that was the kind of thing that was driving me from the beginning.


STUDIO: Frankie, the female lead, is very independent and career-driven and then suddenly bombarded with prejudice fears from those around her. Do you think this is the type of film needed in mainstream cinema?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: Yeah, I think so. My main idea was to invite the viewers into a conversation, [to make it] ambiguous so the audience are drawn inside into the drama and have to make up their own mind. I think there are a lot of films that deal with political issues, and like my film, they don't make easy statements and don't make it easy for the audience. They make us feel drawn into the story and we don't feel like we are sitting back passively being entertained by someone's misery or someone's trouble, but we are part of it, and I hope it will reach the audiences in the cinemas and I hope they will understand the ambiguity of the film is the challenges they have to face.


STUDIO: What would be your ideal reaction for Flying Blind? How would you want it to be received?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: (laughs) I had this discussion with the producer, Alison, and the idea was we want a couple to go to watch the film and leave the cinema arguing on the way home [asking each other] 'what just happened?', 'who was lying?' 'who was right?' and 'who wasn't' and 'what they do' and 'what should they do? So I think that would be the reaction, if the people spend the evening talking about the film afterwards.


STUDIO: That's what happened to us, but we were arguing with ourselves! It was really cutting and honest. What was your most challenging role when directing Flying Blind?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: The challenge was trying to keep the ambiguity because each thing can be read in two different ways. We didn't want to take a stand and we didn't want to say the western society is bad or blame their politicians or the Muslim society, and we didn't want to be racist. But we wanted to be honest and we didn't want to favour anyone. We just wanted to give two different perspectives because nothing is just black and white. We wanted to keep the balance of this element and try to keep it honest and to see the humanity rather than take a political stand. We were trying to give an open-minded answer as opposed to what has to be done and point the finger at someone, show specific people in specific situations and start a discussion.


STUDIO: So, how did Helen McCrory get involved in Flying Blind?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: Helen was the first person we approached and she like the script - she is one of our favourite actresses (laughs). We wanted someone who is strong, brave and tough and she is a great actress and it was great when she agreed to be involved in it because everything started to take shape. We chose actors to match her so when we chose Najib Oudghiri, who plays Kahil, we meet him in Paris and then we brought him to England. We rehearsed with him and Helen to see if the chemistry was right and if the worked well together, and it worked perfectly. Ken Cranham was a big fan of Helen's so when we approached him he said, "If Helen's in it, then I'm in it"! He also wanted to work with her so it was good to have her on-board. She is so experienced so as a first-time director it was great to learn from her, she was very collaborative and she's been very inspiring to work with.




STUDIO: Your background in filmmaking is documentaries and a short film. Where does your love lie now you've completed a feature?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: I have more freedom in fiction and think the experience from making documentaries has been great and has taught me a lot; to be observant and other skills, but I think I see myself as a fiction director.


STUDIO: Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep often speak out for more film directors in Hollywood. What are your thoughts?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: I think there are a lot of cutting edge films but it's very hard to get it to screen. I think there a lot of interesting films in the world but it is so hard to get them into cinemas. I think that's the problem. The distribution and how to get to audiences. I think that's one aspect of it. I'm now in Chile making a Chilean short film and there are a lot of Chilean directors and they make brilliant films here, and I've never watched Chilean films before (laughs). I've started to think there are so many countries making brilliant movies and they travel to festivals but it's very hard to get them into cinemas, they make it into smaller cinemas, like our film, but not mainstream venues. I think a lot of people see cinema as entertainment and you know there are two different strands of cinema; one is entertainment and one is an ambitious discussion with the audience.


STUDIO: So what is next for you now Flying Blind is completed?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: Well, I'm doing a small film here in Chile and it's a short fiction which I co-direct with a Chilean director, it's an experimental project part-initiated by the Danish Film Festival (laughs), so I'm making a very international film. It will be released in autumn. After this I'm developing a script in Poland as a writer and director, and I'm also working with my English producer, Alison Sterling, on an adaptation of a novel that is set in London.


STUDIO: That's very busy! Can you tell us more about any of the films?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: Right now the working title is Before. It's about an accident on the road and we see a family gathered for a celebration, and are waiting for the father/brother/son. They don't know he's been in an accident and we observe the family before the news reaches them. It's a small nostalgic film about one afternoon.


STUDIO: That's sounds really intense, which is your style and sounds very interesting to watch! With all that experience, what would you give as advice?

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: For struggling filmmakers, to make something simple. Something that doesn't require a lot of money so they don't have to get into the politics of gaining the money. Something that doesn't require a lot of actors – just make it simple.



Words by Toyin Ayinde.



Flying Blind is out in cinemas April 12th and will be touring through the UK with cast and filmmaker Q&As. For a full list of dates to go to www.flyingblind.co.uk

“I’m very happy. It was my first film and I’ve made that step forward.”

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