Agnieszka Holland was born in Warsaw, Poland. Her first feature film, Provincial Actors (79), won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes. Her last film, In Darkness, was nominated for an Academy Award for best Foreign film. Her film, Burning Bush, is a special presentation playing at TIFF.
Women and Hollywood: Please give us your description of your film playing at TIFF.
Agnieszka Holland: It is a 4 hour long story around the sacrifice of Czech student Jan Palach in January 1969. He burned himself to death protesting the lack of freedom following the Soviet invasion of his country. The film speaks about the political, social and human consequences of his act and presents the mechanism of soft but brutal communist oppression and moral corruption.
WaH: What drew you to this script?
AH: The script was written by a very young Czech writer - I found it really profound and exact. I was a student in Prague myself, Palach's contemporary, of the Prague spring, the invasion and what followed was for me one of the most important personal and political experiences. I was very active in the student movement, was arrested and spent some time in prison. I welcomed the possibility to express this experience in an artistic way. It was a great gift.
WaH: What was the biggest challenge?
AH: As always when you're filming a true story and the past: to make it universal, alive, and emotionally relevant to contemporary audiences.
WaH: What advice do you have for other female directors?
AH: It is a very hard profession - in general and for women much more so. It takes constant fighting. If you really don't feel that it's something you must do - it's better that you don't do it. And when you're doing it - be yourself. Don't pretend that you know something you don't. Don't create the appearance of fake authority. Speak about the things you really care about.
WaH: What's the biggest misconception about you and your work?
AH: I don't know. There have been so many...
WaH: What are the biggest challenges and or opportunities for the future with the changing distribution mechanisms for films?
AH: I believe that the internet as an open platform for distribution could be a great chance for the diversity of film production. The system now is rigid and corporate. The internet creates chaos and a dangerous kind of piracy but makes the viewer much more active and gives the voice to minority players.
WaH: Name your favorite female directed film and why.
AH: Agnes Varda - talent, courage and a very personal and unique voice.
Kira Muratova - for the same reasons as Varda.
Suzanne Osten - for the film I cannot find on DVD - The Guardian Angel.
Polish director Dorota Kedzierzawska - sensibility, faithfulness to her vision of the world and interest in the weakest human being.
Kathryn Bigelow - perseverance and courage. She breaks all stereotypes.
Jane Campion - for her constant search, talent and beauty.
In reality, I can say the same things about all of them and many others, for example young Lynne Ramsay.