Surrounded by the atmosphere of tightened security in all venues at the Cairo Opera grounds, on Thursday 29 November, the 35th Cairo International Film Festival kicked off with a rich compilation of movies, from around the globe.
The Main Hall of the Cairo Opera House was dominated by screenings of Polish movies: Piata Pora Roku (The Fifth Season of the Year) with a screening of Rose in between.
The Fifth Season of the Year is produced by a Warsaw-based studio Documentary and Feature Film Studios (WFDiF). The film makes part of the main International Competition. During the discussion following the movie, Jolanta Galicka, WFDiF's Promotion Manager, said that Egyptian audiences saw the movie before it officially enters Polish cinemas in December.
Another Polish movie, Rose is screened in the festival's Human Rights Competition.
The theme of The Fifth Season of the Year touches on a unique subject matter with a deep human approach. Directed by Jerzy Domaradzki, Polish director living and working between Poland and Australia, The Fifth Season of the Year looks at two protagonists over 60 years old.
As Domaradzki underlined, "it is not usual for the film industry to present people in advanced age as protagonists and analyze the depth of their emotions and experience."
Domaradzki believes that world cinema should not be limited to responding to tastes of younger people, and partially encouraged by his long experience in Australia where, as he states "many cinema goers are over 50 years old, as they reached financial stability and have time," he decided to take the challenge of The Fifth Season of the Year.
Taking the protagonists' age and experiences, it seems their lives are slowly but surely ending. Unexpectedly, for Barbara (Ewa Wisniewska) and Vitek (Marian Dziędziel), a new chapter opens, as they discover the fifth season of human depth and emotional transformations. They come from different backgrounds, believe in different values, and have different life experiences.
Barbara is a retired music teacher, who finds it difficult to recover recent loss of her life partner, a well-known painter. Vitek is a widowed simple man from Silesia (South of Poland), once a coal miner, and over the past few years, a driver.
Barbara wants to travel to the sea side, some 500 km north, in order to throw her partner's ashes over the sea; the site of their first meeting. While for Vitek, it is a first journey outside his home Silesia and first encounter with the sea.
Rich and surprising, this road story revolves around the journey of two lost souls which connect, despite their social, educational and cultural differences.
The movie invites the viewer into a reflection of an older age and shows how impossible can turn possible, as if challenging the prejudices, social convictions, and even the simplest human emotions. One is surprised when realizing that Natalia Pryzowicz, the script writer is 25 years old. Yet, she managed to capture and analyze the emotional depth of her protagonists with an utmost accuracy, as the beauty of the characters is evoked through many simple elements.
"First, Pryzowicz, who is also my student, wrote a short story that she presented to me," Domaradzki explained how he decided to make the movie. The realization of the movie was strengthened even more by the excellent choice of cast.
Wisniewska, graduate of The National Higher School of Theatre in Warsaw, is among the most renowned actresses of her generation, awarded several prizes for her theatrical appearances and contributions to culture. As Barbara, Wisniewska created a truthful character of a woman whose world lost meaning. The lengthy and seemingly slow pace she takes to introduce emotional transformations only underlines her acting strengths.
Dziedziel, graduate of the same school as Wisniewska and not any less known, was seen by the international audiences in the role of a construction worker in The Pianist or as Zygmunt Kowal in The Mole, a film recently screened during the 5th Panorama of the European Film.
In The Fifth Season of the Year, Dziedziel uses slang language characteristic to the Silesia region, which represents the actor's and character's homeland. As a driver coming from a financially challenged social class, Dziedziel delivered profound human emotions of a simple, lost in life, honest man, who regardless of his seemingly harsh, and unpolished attitude, holds on to his principles and old good values.
Though appearing sporadically, the secondary characters presented in the movie help unveil important character traits of the protagonists. "The movie is set in the years of Poland’s major political transformations," Domaradzki commented, pointing to the last days of communism. "The older generation presented by the protagonists belong to different values and are contrasting with the young, more dynamic and more pragmatic, characters."
Yet, another important element of the movie is in its music. Jerzy Satanowski is one of the well-known Polish composers with over 300 works done for theatre and films. Without imposing his music, Satanowski's manages to create moods, add commentary, and at times, laugh at the dramaturgical situation. Illustrative in many moments, Satanowski's contribution to the movie has given a new dimension to many scenes and at times became a character of its own.
It is worth adding that Satanowski's music was used in the Egyptian theatre, when he offered a few of his compositions to Mannequins' Ball, a theatre play directed by Hanaa Abdel Fattah at Hanaguer Theatre in the mid-1990s.
With all its power and depth, The Fifth Season of the Year is a movie that will touch many audiences and provoke interesting human reflections.
As the festival continues, Polish cinema returns on Saturday, 1 December with Rose, at 10am.
Also from Poland, as jury members are two Polish actresses: Magda Moczarska (from Rose) and Katarzyna Zawadzka.
See the festival's programme here