Wika Szmit's enthusiasm for music, dance, and fun is simply contagious. Who could resist this white-haired lady in cat-eye glasses spinning tunes from the DJ booth of a neon-lit club while seniors get frisky on the dance floor? Piotr Malecki, a Polish photojournalist, blends still images and video to tell Wika's story in this short documentary, produced with Panos Pictures, as part of a series of vignettes about Warsaw. He describes the ongoing project in a short interview below.
The Atlantic: How did you meet Wika and decide to tell this story?
I am working on a series of short films about life in Warsaw, so I am constantly in search of good subjects. I read about her in a Polish daily, there was a short story with one picture and I thought that this could work really nicely as a larger feature and fit brilliantly in my series. I did not know her personally and it was pure luck that she turned out to be such a great, warm and deep personality. We spend lots of time together, talking about everything, having coffee and cookies that she bakes in her kitchen. As my knowledge and liking of her grew, the story also went away from the simple one-dimensional tale and it could be, enriched with her personality, her emotions and her thoughts. So, finally I could make something more universal, short film about a person who does not give in to time and age.
How do you navigate between shooting still photos and video?
I am still working on it, always tempted to switch quickly from photos to video and back. I know that this makes things more hectic and that this way I am missing some of the best photos and videos. I tried to force myself to shoot only photos and then only videos, but then I felt I was missing even more. So, now I am trying to learn to quickly judge what works best in which format and then make my decisions on the spot. Not sure if it's such a good idea though; I need to figure it out.
Did anything in the course of making the video surprise you?
I think that the biggest surprise for me was the energy that older people can have. Not only Wika, just about everyone who comes for these dances. They are so youthful and playful, so full of life and joy, happy to dance, meet others, even romance. Yes, there's lot of romance there too. I was amazed by that.
What's next for you?
My closest aim is to finish the Warsaw Stories series, which will consist of six short films. Upon finishing I would like to edit it together into one full-length feature film. And the second pending project is more international, about industrial production of beef and its consequences. The first part is already done, a short film shot in southwest Kansas, where all is done for beef and because of beef and where giant factories like National Beef and Tyson kill about 5,000 cattle a day. So the next move is to shoot films on this topic in South America and probably former Soviet states. I am now trying to get financing for this, looking for sponsors.
For more work by Piotr Malecki, visit http://piotrmalecki.com/.