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FUTURE FRAMES 2022

Maciej Jankowski • Director de Fruits and Vegetables

“La obesidad nos dio una excusa para explorar el poder destructivo de la vergüenza”

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- El director polaco nos habla de su tierna película sobre una madre y su hijo, que se proyecta en EFP Future Frames

Maciej Jankowski • Director de Fruits and Vegetables

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

After graduating from Culture Studies at the University of Warsaw, Polish director Maciej Jankowski then headed to the Polish National Film, Television and Theatre in Lodz to study film directing. With a background in documentaries, his previous films include We Get Along Beautiful (2016) and Broken Head (2020), the raw and powerful story of a prisoner with drug problems who finds himself undergoing therapy for the first time. These films have screened at the likes of Moscow, New Horizons and Krakow.

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For his latest film, Fruits and Vegetables, which is screening as part of the European Film Promotion’s Future Frames at the 56th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (July 1-9), Jankowski moves into the realms of fiction. He tells the story of Wojtek (a wonderful performance from young Jakub Wojtas), an obese boy who spends his time trying to get fit and being made fun of by school friends because of his mother’s old car, stuffed with fruits and vegetables bound for their grocery store. With a frosty relationship between the two of them, the problems between them come to a head. But a surprise visit to a store brings a moment of possible change. Jankowski has crafted a moving but gently humorous coming-of-age story.

Cineuropa: How did this story of the relationship between a mother and son come about?
Maciej Jankowski: The story and the relationships between the characters are 73% based on my personal experiences. For almost twenty years, my parents ran a small grocery store that they named after me. During my childhood, I hated that place. Work turned them into tired, messy and nervous people. I loved my parents but, at the same time, felt ashamed of myself and of them. I wanted to be like other kids from my school — skinny, fashionably dressed, driven up to school in an expensive car that would not smell like cauliflower and cabbage. It was from these strong childhood emotions/memories that the idea for the film was born.

It’s interesting that you chose to make Wojtek obese. It makes you think that the film is going to go one way — that it will be about him and bullying — but it veers into a different direction as it becomes about his relationship with his mother, as Wojtek’s wish to get healthy represents the change that can cause tension between families when a child grows independent. Was it a deliberate choice to slightly subvert audience expectations?
Yes, it was a deliberate choice to slightly subvert audience expectations. But also, the obesity of the character gave us an opportunity to explore the destructive power of shame and to examine lack of self-acceptance. If Wojtek is not happy as he is, it will be difficult for him to accept others: especially his embarrassing mother.

Linked to the above question, coming-of-age and familial tension are popular themes in cinema and culture in general. Were you influenced by anything?
I am a huge fan of US filmmaker Todd Solondz and the Polish filmmaker Marek Koterski. Koterski made both documentary films and fiction films and is known for such films as The Day of the Wacko [+lee también:
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(2002) and The House of Fools (1985).

How did you go about casting and finding Wojtek? He is so brilliant in the lead role.
Finding the boy for a film is difficult. Finding an obese boy: that was even worse! But the true nightmare? Finding an obese boy who can act. We were very lucky indeed. 

I got in contact with Kuba's parents thanks to a friend. It turned out that he is the brother of Karolina Wojtas, an amazing Polish photographer. One of the main subjects of her photos is the relationship with her brother — Kuba.

What are you hoping to get from the Future Frames experience?
I hope it will be a time of unforgettable experiences and a chance for future collaborations.
But I am also intensively looking for a writer with whom I could write. My dream is that, after watching my film, someone will contact me about writing scripts together. 

Do you know what project you’ll be working on next?
I have some ideas, but I’m still in the phase of stress, doubts and searching.

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