Raiders of the Lost Archive…

 

Searching through reels of archive film is a bit like searching for a lost treasure in the warehouse at the end of ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’.

The sheer volume can be daunting.

If you are after something quite general –  it’s very easy, but counter intuitive as it may seem, the more specific you are with WW2 archive – the harder it can get… with that one clip, that one elusive little gem, glittering just out of your reach…

For my documentary ‘Portrait of a Soldier’, I have been very fortunate. The fact that over 4 hours of footage filmed during the Warsaw Uprising has survived is really a miracle. That it also survived communism is another.

To now be able to use this in my film, along with beautiful photographs – many by acclaimed photographers; Sylwester “Kris” Braun, Eugeniusz “Brok” Lokajski and Jerzy Tomaszewski – is a true privilege.

But whilst my film is nearing post-production completion, This blog post – is about that one archive clip that I could not find the rights to and therefore, will not be in the finished film… And that despite the clip being used in two previous documentaries about the Warsaw Uprising!

Sometime ago I met with director Paul Meyer, who used the clip in his film “Konspirantinnen: Polnishe Frauen Im Widerstand 1939-1945”. Mr. Meyer was not sure of the clips origin and some suggestions have been made it was not filmed in Poland, but in Ukraine. In any event, it seemed impossible to establish where the footage had been sourced and acquired from. The clip was also used in another documentary called “Betrayal: the Battle for Warsaw” which was shown on the History channel. Having worked at History, I was in this case given access to the production paperwork – yet again, like all the other searches through various footage companies, this eventually also led nowhere.

The reason this clip is special is that it depicts something rarely, if ever, caught on film – It shows a man and a woman assassinating a German officer (?) on a street, in broad daylight.

How a resistance mission this dangerous would ever be recorded on film, is in itself questionable.

But unlike some ‘acted / re-constructed ’ film recordings from this time, that often make their way into archive footage collections, this film clip has something authentic about it:

The jumpy camera movement. The reactions of people passing by. The look of the woman’s face as she rushes towards the camera. It feels real.

But where this film was recorded, by whom – and for the purpose of documentary making: who holds the rights to this archive clip today ? This all remains a glimmering mystery to me…

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Portrait of a Soldier – Posters

Posters for ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ documentary.

Concept inspired by ‘traditional’ white paint / brick texture  imagery  and the ‘Poland Fighting’ anchor symbol  – as painted by the Polish resistance movement during the occupation. The brick colour palette is also representative of the red and white armband worn by the Polish Home Army, during the Warsaw Uprising 1944.

Concept, Art Direction and Photography by Marianna Bukowski. Graphic Design by Jack Newman.

English and Polish Versions.

 

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For more information on ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ documentary  – please visit website here!

 

Like ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ on Facebook – click here!

 

Portrait of a Soldier – Polish Collage Posters

Taking inspiration from classic / retro Polish film poster design – these are two collage version posters for the forthcoming documentary ‘Portrait of a Soldier':

The first concept is based on the Coat of Arms of Warsaw – ‘Syrenka’ (‘Little Mermaid’).

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The second concept is based on Poland’s military and cultural heritage of “Winged Hussars” (16th-18th Century Polish cavalry in the Kingdom of Poland and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth).

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Concepts and Design by Marianna Bukowski.

For more information on ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ documentary please visit website here!

Like ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ on Facebook – here!

Wola Insurgents Cemetery – 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising 1944

Many beautiful events were held in Warsaw at the start of August, to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising 1944.

Amongst them, a very special ceremony was held at the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery in Wola. At this cemetery, over 100 000 people lay buried; soldiers together with civilians, the majority in graves marked ‘unknown’.

The hero of forthcoming documentary ‘Portrait of a Soldier’, Polish Home Army veteran Wanda Traczyk – Stawska, has since 1947, as ordered by her commander, fought for the recognition, restoration and memory of the fallen at this cemetery.

As the long-awaited restoration work is now underway, on the 1st of August 2014, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski held a very moving speech in memory of the fallen and 70 years after the Rising,  acknowledged Ms. Wanda Traczyk – Stawska’s mission accomplished.

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The President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski and Home Army veteran Wanda Traczyk – Stawska at the Insurgents cemetery in Wola, Warsaw on the 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising on 1st of August 2014.

 

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For more information on ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ please visit website here!

Like ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ on Facebook here!

 

 

Making a Little War Zone…

As some of you may know, I recently finished the offline edit of my indie documentary ‘Portrait of a Soldier’.

The “offline-edit” is a first edit where the story narrative is built and all the visual elements are put together.

There is still a lot of work left: Music composition / sound design and also the “Online-edit” – this includes color grading, effects and other bits that prepare the film to a technical broadcast standard.

But the “offline” is where the film first comes to life – and I am very pleased, as after months and months of sourcing archive material, I have managed to secure most of the footage I wished for – and the majority of it has been transferred to HD from a cleaned original negative!

This said, there are a moments in the film for which archive material does not exist or can not be found or is unsuitable for some reason – and over the last couple of weekends, I have been filming a few, very simple shots to help visualize the story.

When you are working with a crew on a more normal production, it goes without saying, things are much easier – but on your own, outdoors, unprotected from the curious judgements of passing by strangers, you are often, by normal “civilian” standards, perceived as…well, a bit… odd.

So – it was not without reason that my words fumbled when I bumped into my unsuspecting landlord, as I realized I’d better warn him about my plans…

This was our conversation:

Me: ‘This weekend… A friend is coming over and we need to… create a bit of a…. mess, in front of the house…we need to…. I’m making something… and we need to use some loose bricks… stone slates…’

(yes, that’s me, rambling in hesitation: I mean, who wants to hear I’m planning to make a mess outside of THEIR property?)

‘We need to make …a bit of a rubble… build something like a barricade…’

(All this said whilst manically waving my arms around trying to show just how messy it will get…)

‘We need to build…’

My landlord (in unsurprised, matter of fact, voice): ‘… A war zone.’

Me: ‘Yes!! Yes – That’s it!’

 

Ah. I do have a great landlord. I’d forgotten, that by now, he kind of knows this particular tenant, at least a little bit.

So, this blog post is really a shout-out, to those rare to come by, super nice landlords that help indie documentaries happen!

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A “Method” director at work…. #WarsawRisingSelfie

Hmmm… Wonder if this may be a good time to mention I’ve always wanted to try and build an Anderson Shelter in the back garden…

 

Bekiesz: Ancestry and Fashion – 16th Century Style…

My great-great grandmother was Maria Bekiesz, the last descendant in Poland, whose lineage traces back to Kasper Bekiesz. As a young girl, when I asked my grandmother about our family history, she wrote a letter to me, about Kasper Bekiesz, and said that it is good that I’m asking and that I want to remember him – and so, I have decided to share his story with you here:

Kasper de Korniath Bekiesz was a Hungarian nobleman born in 1520. He lived in Transylvania, in a castle called Fogaras/Fogarasz. After the death of the King of Hungary, Jan II Zygmunt Zápolya / John Sigismund Zápolya, in 1571, he fought Stefan Bathory for the throne of Transylvania.

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Portrait of Kasper Bekiesz (1520-1579/80) . Wearing a headdress with great panache! And in addition to such a stylish hat, I believe he is also here seen wearing the coat – a “Bekiesza” – that bears his name. (Anonymous plate reproduction before 1861. Wikimedia Commons)

My grandmother writes (to my then 8-year-old self) that Kasper Bekiesz was “cheerful, brave and courageous – and that he could fight. He also liked to dress well”… but more on this later!

In his testament, John Sigismund Zápolya, left the Voivode of Transylvania to Bekiesz, but the will was not honored and Stefan Bathory was elected as voivode.

Supported by Maximillian II, Holy Roman Emperor, Bekiesz gathered an army and rebelled against Bathory – but was defeated.  He started another rebellion in 1575 – but was again defeated.

In 1575 Stefan Bathory was elected, and later, in 1576, crowned King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, becoming the ruler of the Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth.

With the death of Maximillian II in 1576, Bekiesz decided to reconcile with Bathory – becoming his close friend and advisor.

He joined the Livonian campaign of Stefan Bathory in the Livonian War against Ivan ‘The Terrible’ of Russia.

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Stefan Bathory at Pskov / Batory pod Pskowem. Painting by Jan Matejko, 1872. (Royal Castle in Warsaw / Wikimedia Commons)

The Bekiesz family crest is a black eagle claw, with a half-moon crescent and a star – additions granted by Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire!

Stefan Bathory assigned Bekiesz castles and Lanckorona, but in 1579…  or 1580 (accounts differ) – Bekiesz caught a cold, fell ill and died.

Although in our own family legend, his death has a somewhat more romantic end – involving a knight tournament and the pursuit of a lady’s heart!

He left his two sons, Władysław and Gabriel, in the care of nobleman and magnate Jan Zamoyski.

Not allowed a church burial, Kasper Bekiesz, was buried on a hill – Bekes Hill in Vilnius (na górze pod Wilnem, zwanej odtąd Bekieszową). But in 1838 Bekes Hill was washed away by the Vilnia River (rzeka Wilejka).

…Whilst I have not found the following in any source other than Wikipedia, as it makes for a curious twist,  I include it here: Apparently, with the hill’s erosion, in the remains from Kasper Bekiesz burial only a skull was found - wearing a headdress made of golden velvet!

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And this, stylishly, leads me to another part of Kasper Bekiesz legacy: The “Bekiesza” coat – as it is still known to this day!

My grandmother wrote describing this fur-lined coat, that Bekiesz had made for travelling and hunting, and I remember as a child wondering what this coat would actually look like – and if it got very dirty when hunting…

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A red version of the Bekiesza coat can be seen worn in this painting by Brodero Matthisen, 1659: Portrait of Stefan Czarniecki, Field Hetman of The Crown.  Stefan Czarniecki 1599-1665, was a Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth general and Nobleman. (Royal Castle in Warsaw /Wikimedia Commons)

The “Bekiesza“ coat would become a part of the Polish cavalry uniform in the 19th Century and was worn in the November Uprising of 1830-1831, against the Russian Empire. Following the defeat, escaping Polish soldiers brought the coat to Prussia – and a later version can be seen in the painting below: Im ersten Semester, by Georg Muhlberg, 1900. (Wikimedia Commons)

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Ending on a different note, I will mention, being quite fond of many Russian writers, that in Nikolai Gogol’s short story  ‘How Ivan Ivanovich quarrelled with Ivan Nikiforovich’ – the opening line is: Славная бекеша у Ивана Ивановича! отличнейшая! А какие смушки !

In Polish translation: Ładny Bekiesz Iwan Iwanowicz! Doskonały! A co jagnię!

…and in English: Nice Bekiesz Ivan Ivanovich! Excellent! And what lambskin!

Unfortunately, like so many other things, in my own Penguin copy of the story – this has been entirely lost in translation, reading only: You should see Ivan Ivanovich’s marvelous short fur jacket!  It’s fantastic! And the quality of the sheepskins!…

 

A lovely day and start on 2014…

My forthcoming documentary on the Warsaw Rising: ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ is based on WW2 soldier Wanda Traczyk – Stawska’s wartime experiences and memories from the Battle for Warsaw in 1944 – and yesterday I had the rare pleasure of inviting Wanda, nom de guerre “Pączek”, to tea – here at my London flat!

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The documentary synopsis of  ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ can be read here and Q & A about independent documentary filmmaking here.