Memories from Cannes: Małgorzata Szumowska

In the last decade Małgorzata Szumowska has become one the strongest voices in Polish cinema. Her films, including 33 Scenes from Life (2008), In the name of… (2013) and Body (2015), were awarded at film festivals in Berlin, Locarno and Thessaloniki. But what are her Cannes Film Festival memories? Marcin Zawiśliński found out.

Marcin Zawiśliński: Do you remember your first visit to Cannes?

Małgorzata Szumowska: It was in 2000. I went with Michał Englert for “Ascension”, our short feature which was presented in the “Cinéfondation” section. For the first time in our lives we landed in a world of total glamour. For Poles from the 1990s, it was a nice shock and a lot of fun.

Your second visit to this festival was connected with the film Antichrist by Danish director Lars von Trier.

I was the film’s Polish co-producer. To this day, I still remember this trip because it was the most spectacular of all my visits to Cannes so far. I was with von Trier’s team! I remember how impressed I was by Haneke’s The White Ribbon when it was shown with him present. It’s undoubtedly the dream of many directors to present their film in the main competition at Cannes. It is difficult but you never know. For now, I’m a typical Berlin-style director, and I’m glad about that because I like Berlinale very much.

The third time you went to Cannes was in 2011 with Sponsoring, which had been developed as part of the fifth edition of the Atelier de la Cinéfondation.

It was a completely different visit from the previous two. I attended a lot of very interesting pitches, conversations and dinners with producers from all over the world. Such meetings are always a lesson.

Why do you submit your films to Berlin instead of Cannes?

It’s not like that. When I finish a film, I try to send it to the next A class festival. In recent years, that happened to be Berlin. On the other hand, it’s also part of the strategy of my foreign sales agent. Besides, the organisers of the Berlin festival have long been interested in me as a director from Poland. It turns out that being a close neighbour does matter. The French are no longer as curious as they used to be about what our cinema is presenting. Today, they are more inclined to watch Iranian or Romanian films. That is why Polish artists are now finding it more difficult to break into Cannes than Berlin.

If you had a choice between Berlin and Cannes, where would you submit your next film?

 I’d love to try Cannes for a change, as I already know Berlin after all. Agnieszka Holland once said to me: “You know why creators need success at festivals? To have the freedom to create.” I wholeheartedly agree with that, it is why we need awards and festivals. But we shouldn’t go overboard about them and we should just do our thing.