Jerzy Sladkowski: Breathing With Nature

14. Jul 2022 | News

It’s incredible how South Estonians are connected with nature. All of their everyday activities are in rhythm with nature, it’s amazing! And your mixed forests – in Sweden you won’t find that kind of symbiosis. – Jerzy Sladkowski

Polish-Swedish documentary film director Jerzy Sladkowski was the first Tartu 2024 Arts of Survival Documentaries resident from May 25 to June 18. Jerzy Sladkowski was born and raised in Poland but has settled in Sweden since 1982. Film journalist Tiit Tuumtalu has described Jerzy as a living classic of documentary. During his long career, he has made over 50 films for TV stations in France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway. Jerzy Sladkowski’s films have been screened at numerous film festivals. He has won the European Film Academy’s Best Documentary Award and major awards at IDFA in Amsterdam, DOK in Leipzig, New York and Gothenburg. 

Over the course of two weeks, Sladkowski visited the Souther Estonian border areas, Setomaa and Peipsiäärse. Sladkowski had the most profound impression of the Setos – their history, habits, religion, way of thinking and life. “The Setos, who have fought for centuries for their survival, have managed to preserve their traditions and way of life. After all, the Setos choose a new king for themselves yearly, making them the strongest survival artists in Southern Estonia” said Jerzy.

At the end of his trip, Jerzy conducted a masterclass, “Shit the brains – how to reach the viewer’s heart ❤️” at the Tartu Centre for Creative Industries, where he talked about his creative kitchen. He emphasized that when making films, you have to think about how to reach people’s hearts and give emotional experiences. 

The residency ended with the “Meet The Auteur” film evening at Tartu Elektriteater, where we showed Sladkowski’s three well-known films. “Paradise” was the first documentary film to receive the audience prize at tARTuFF in 2010, and the second film “Vodka Factory” won the Grand Prix at the Pärnu Film Festival in 2011. Finally, we showed the movie “Bitter Love”. The overall themes of Jerzy Sladkowski’s films are people facing dramatic changes or individuals trying to maintain normality in a changing environment who quietly strive for a better life. Read more about the films here.

Despite the warm Sunday afternoon, many documentary fans gathered at Tartu Elektriteater. After the film “Bitter Love”, the Arts of Survival Documentaries artistic director Kaarel Kuurmaa conducted a conversation with Sladkowski about the characters and themes of his films.