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KRAKOW 2020

Review: Fortunata

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- Telling the story of a former model who kept Berlusconi entertained and who now promotes pre-marital chastity, Paweł Banasiak’s film is an endearingly cringeworthy premiere at the Krakow Film Festival

Review: Fortunata

The Krakow Film Festival is one of the oldest events in Poland, but also one of the most modern. It’s the first film gathering in Poland to have moved entirely online due to That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named, and the programme is as surprising and fresh as ever. Many of the documentaries being presented show that our world is a crazy place and that life can change in the blink of an eye – and not just because someone ate a bat in China.

Fortunata, directed by Paweł Banasiak, one of the world premieres in the Polish Competition, is just one of them. It centres on Polish model Anna Golędzinowska, who moved to Italy years ago and went all the way from sinner to saint. She narrates her own life story, which contains so many twists and turns that it could easily provide enough material for an entire season of a TV series focusing on true stories.

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Anna was born poor, her father left and subsequently died, her mother had a drinking problem, and she was sexually abused in her early teens. She became a model, but before any real success came, she was a victim of human trafficking, and after she made a miraculous escape, she testified against her kidnappers. Then she moved to Milan and became part of the city’s wild nightlife. She partied with international stars, and dated Italian football players, local celebrities and even the grandson of the last Italian king. Anna also famously jumped out of Silvio Berlusconi’s birthday cake and was in a relationship with his nephew.

One day, she went on a trip to the Bosnian town of Medjugorje, where she found a new love: Jesus Christ. She became a true believer and renounced her glittery lifestyle. She got married and moved to a quiet Italian town, where the only entertainment was going to church or to the gym. Anna is also writing a book and is touring Europe promoting pre-marital chastity while giving witness to the purifying power of Jesus’ love. One more twist was still ahead of her, but revealing it here would be like eating the cherry on top of someone’s cake.

Fortunata is not a documentary based on shock value or simply relying on scandal. The director patiently observes Anna, who talks about her past with an almost indifferent tone – she has clearly made amends with her past and doesn’t need to zealously condemn her wrongful ways. She is an interesting character to watch and ponder, as we wonder why some people experience more in their lives than others. Anna doesn’t seem to stand out – she has more of a pretty-girl-next-door quality than a star vibe, even in archive footage from her modelling years. There are some very moving scenes, such as when she makes a speech to a crowd consisting of many lost souls, who come to her afterwards seeking support. And they raise an age-old question: why are people so easily wooed by new prophets?

It’s easy to mock this story, because so many celebrities before Anna have proclaimed their newfound love of God, and they did it in such a kitschy way that their sudden conversion seemed more like just a new addiction. Fortunata offers more than just an unbelievable number of plot twists because it treats its protagonist with respect and unbiased curiosity. And that’s contagious.

Fortunata was produced by Paweł Banasiak.

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