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Directed by Joanna Kos, Krzysztof Krauze

  • Poland 2013; 131 min
  • Original version: Polish
  • Genre: Drama
    • Special Mention Award - Karlovy Vary IFF
    • Open Horizons section Audience Award - Thessaloniki IFF


Romany poet Bronisława Wajs (1908-1987), known as Papusza, is a Polish legend. Instead of attempting a classical biographical piece, the filmmakers bring to life events that were important both for the destiny of this talented woman, and for the modern history of her ethnic group. The black-and-white photography conjures up a poetic and, in places, raw testimony of the regions travelled by the Romanies before the Second World War and immediately after it. The film also treats the decline of their best traditions, and the physical and moral deprivation they suffered after being forced to abandon their nomadic existence. Although Papusza at various stages of her life remains the focus of the story, it is not until the latter half of the movie that fragments are pieced together to form a picture of her youth, her unhappy marriage, her character and also her custom of setting down her experiences and feelings in verse on scraps of paper. The film moves between several time planes which, while requiring vigilance from the audience, makes for a compelling evocation of the personal tragedy of a woman whose poetic gift brought her fame, but also damnation.

Director's Statement

Papusza was a Roma girl, born in a carriage, an autodidact, who in the end was mentioned in the world‘s encyclopedias and had her work translated into many languages. She was also named as one of the 60 most important women in Polish history. Isn‘t this an astonishing destiny worth to be told in an epic film? For us, it was also an opportunity to introduce the world of the Romas and to give it back its dignity. The culture of the Roma has hardly ever been greeted with interest, evoking fear and aggression instead. With his monograph, Jerzy Ficowski has shed a new light on Roma people and contributed to a better understanding of that group. He confronted the schemes and prejudices, which had categorized Roma as demonic and worthless. We want to follow Jerzy’s steps and show our audience the pure and passionate soul of the Gypsy culture. Beside the two main characters – Papusza and Jerzy Ficowski – there is a third „collective protagonist“, namely the gypsy world. Reconstructing Roma way of life, which has been extinguished in its original form from the European landscape, proved to be the biggest chalenge during our five year work on the film. Only after our work was finished, we have realised how daring a task it was to try to reconstruct this world from scratch, i.e. to build the tabors as they were and tell 80 years of Romas‘ history until the era of communist reign in Poland, which resulted in compulsory Roma settlement. Especially as there is not much documentation available on the subject Roma and their extermination while at the same time there is massive body of research into prewar Jewish culture and the Holocaust. Our film tells a story of a remarkable woman, who paid a terrible price for transgressing norms of her community and publishing her poetical works – a price of rejection and solitude. It is also a story about love and a character who is way beyond her times and has the courage to stay true to herself until the very end. It is not a biopic (in a sense that My Nikifor was also not a biography). It is not a socio-political film or a work with etnographic aspirations. It is a film about courage to create, the suffering and being alone at the peak of popularity, unrequitted love and deviotion. But also about happiness.




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