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Review: All Our Fears


- The true story of the Catholic, Polish and gay activist Daniel Rycharski in a complex film that shines a dazzling light on a country that has veered towards intolerance

Review: All Our Fears
Dawid Ogrodnik in All Our Fears

The relationship between art and religion has deteriorated ever since painters stopped depicting magnificent Depositions and Madonnas with Child and contemporary performers started working on works featuring a pope on the ground hit by a meteorite (Maurizio Cattelan's sculpture The Ninth Hour, 1999) or even worse, photographs depicting plastic crucifixes immersed in a glass of urine (Andres Serrano's provocative work Piss Christ, 1987). When the artist is a gay man fighting for LGBTQ+ rights, things get much more complicated, as in the case of Daniel Rycharski, a Polish artist, activist and devout Catholic, whom an article in last year's Economist described as someone who "builds bridges with art." In reality, Rycharski has fashioned rosary beads out of resin mixed with the blood of a gay friend, made scarecrows out of clothes donated by persecuted lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, sewn a spiky hooded dress out of a real church robe and called it “Ku-Klux-Klan.” But the thing that baffles everyone is the fact that Daniel is a churchgoer, more fervent than an old peasant woman who goes to mass every day. And he infuses his faith in art.

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All Our Fears, directed by Łukasz Ronduda (filmmaker and curator of the Varsovie Museum of Modern Art) and by director of photography Łukasz Gutt, does nothing other than show us a crucial moment in Rycharsk's life. The film screened at the MiX International Festival of LGBTQ+ and Queer Culture after winning the Golden Lion at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia in September, while Łukasz Gutt was named 'Discovery of the Year' at the Polish Film Awards (the Eagles).

Leaving Cracow, the artist (Dawid Ogrodnik) settled in Kurówek, a village of 200 inhabitants in central Poland, where he became a champion of the rural community struggling not to succumb to the logic of central power and wild boars, and where he aggregated a tiny LGBTQ+ community. Daniel has painted large hybrid animals on farmsteads, barns and public spaces and the community loves him and 'tolerates' his sexual choices. Even the village parish priest absolves him, because he could not do otherwise. But something breaks when young Jagoda (Agata Labno), whom Daniel has urged to stop hiding her homosexuality, is threatened by a group of homophobic youths and kills herself by hanging herself from a tree. Daniel Rycharski turns that tragic death into an artistic performance: he cuts down the tree on which she hanged herself and carves a cross from it, with which he wants to organise a Way of the Cross, "because Jagoda died like Christ" and "this cross speaks of a universal drama:" the right to live without being humiliated and hated. Intolerance gets the upper hand, but Rycharski challenges the Church and common sense by bringing his work to a vernissage in Warsaw.

All Our Fears is a complex film, full of nuances - and here we will omit to mention the characters that populate it and the relationships that animate it (the very sweet rapport between Daniel and his grandmother, the irreconcilable one with his father, the gallery owner and friend of Daniel’s, the encounter with the mother of the girl who completed suicide and with the town mayor). The two directors give a fluidity and rhythm to the dramatic events that were not easy to find, even if in certain dialogues the complexity bends to excessive didacticism. Dawid Ogrodnik gives a passionate performance of the protagonist, emphasising his histrionic personality typical of leaders and his religious-artistic exaltation. All Our Fears shines a dazzling light on a European country that has veered drastically towards intolerance and where a number of villages have declared themselves LGBTQ-free zones. It also proves that Polish cinema retains its all-time greatness in exploring the cracks in its social fabric.

The film was produced by Serce.

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(Translated from Italian)

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