Interview with Katarzyna Klimkiewicz: Director of Flying Blind

Since her success at the Edinburgh International Film Festival for her first directional feature debut; Flying Blind, Polish director Katarzyna Klimkiewicz’s is creating a stir in the film world. Not a stranger to the many facets of filmmaking, Katarzyna graduated from the Polish Film School in Lodz and has collaborated with the Polish National Television on many projects, including her documentary Krystian Lupa’s Labyrinth. Her documentary Wasserschlacht – The Great Border Battle co-directed with Andrew Friedman was awarded a Berlin Today Award during Berlinale in 2007 and her short film Hanoi-Warszawa won many Polish and International awards and was voted the Best Short of 2010 by the European Film Academy.

Flying Blind, starring Helen McCrory and Najib Oudghiri, is a compelling and provocative thriller. McCrory plays Frankie, an accomplished aerospace engineer who designs drones for use in combat. One day, as she gives a guest lecture on the subject, student Kahil (Oudghiri) – a Muslim – strikes up a flirtation with her and, against her better judgement, an affair begins.

Aesthetica spoke to Katarzyna about her film career, Flying Blind and what we can expect to see from her in the future.

A: You have directed a couple of documentaries, Krystian Lupa’s Labyrinth and Wasserschlacht – The Great Border Battle– what was it that drew you to this genre?

KK: Documentaries are a great way to meet people you’d probably never meet and ask question you’d probably never ask otherwise, it’s a great way to expand your horizons and explore unknown territories. But it’s also a very hard medium, you need to have great reflex and sensitivity and also patience. The idea for my first feature short came to me while I was making a documentary. I felt very frustrated doing it, because I couldn’t capture half of the things I knew about the people I was filming, so I decided to write a story based on them. It was a fictional story with fictional characters, but inspired by scenes I have seen or heard of. I felt much more free after I decided to quit documentary and move into fiction.

A: You have also won awards for your short, Hanoi-Warszawa, do you find short films are complete films in themselves or a step to creating full feature films?

KK: Short films are for me complete films in themselves, different stories need different forms. It’s a bit strange to think that the feature film must be 90 minutes and that it is the ‘proper’ length. After the screenings of my short film Hanoi-Warsaw (which was 30 minutes long) a lot of people in the audience wanted to know what happens next with characters and suggested I should develop it into a feature movie. But I felt I told the whole story, that I expressed what I wanted to express in 30 minutes and making it longer will dilute the message. So I think every story has its own timing. I definitely don’t think shorts are just a ticket into a feature film world. I am still making short films after the first feature.

A: Flying Blind is a film that deals with a few contentious issues, unconventional love, security, betrayal and terrorism – how did you approach these various issues with insight and sensitivity?

KK: I’m interested in people and how their cultural and social background shapes them and influences their choices. I think our private, intimate life is very much influenced by the world outside, by the global conflicts. In Flying Blind I wanted to explore it, to see how Frankie and Kahil perceive each other. They look at each other through the other person eyes and are both anxious at how the other person sees them: Frankie is self-conscious of her age, Kahil of his illegal status. They are both forced to confront prejudices, also their own. So how did I approach the contentious issues? I made it as private and as intimate as possible and I tried to pull the audience to feel as confused as characters. As a viewer when you follow the plot, you must confront your own prejudices in trying to figure out who to believe.

A: What was it about the story of Flying Blind that made you want to work on it?

KK: The story appealed to me, because it has great, complex characters. I can identify both with Frankie and with Kahil. I could see the world from both their perspectives. On one hand there is a strong, sexy and independent woman, on the other an intelligent, charming and determined man. They are strong and passionate people and there are both confronted with their biggest fears. I felt close to Frankie, because I am also an independent woman in a man’s world and I felt close to Kahil, because growing up in communist Poland I know how it feels to come to the rich West from the other side of the wall.

A: What have you got planned for the rest of the year?

KK: I am currently in post production of a short called The Island and working on a Polish TV drama Time of Honor until mid-August. Then I am scheduled to develop two scripts as a writer/director: Hungry – a thriller set in Middle Age Poland, and Unity Penfold – an adaptation of an English novel by Margaret Tabor, which I am developing with Alison Sterling of Ignition Films, who produced Flying Blind.

Flying Blind is released on DVD on 15 July.