Director: Maria Sadowska
Writers: Katarzyna Terechowicz, Maria Sadowska
Cast: Katarzyna Kwiatowska, Eryk Lubos, Grazyna Barszczewska, Klara Bielawka, Ewa Konstancja Bulhak, Julia Czuraj, Zina Kerste, Dorota Kolak, Agata Kulesza
90mins Polish Drama with subtitles
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Maria Sadowska’s has many strings to her bow: jazz-pop vocalist, writer, composer and director. Her debut feature is a feisty, feminist affair and although much darker in tone, very much along the lines of Erin Brokovich (2000) or even Gloria (2012), the breakout Chilean feature that won Best Actress for Paulina Garcia at Berlinale this year. The setting is also more unglamorous: An eighties supermarket on the outskirts of Warsaw where the prolific Polish actor, Katarzyna Kwiatkowska, as Halina, plays a modest working woman who turns out to have hidden depths and remarkable staying power. Eryk Lubos is her co-star, another well-known Pole who leads in hard-hitting dramas: To Kill A Beaver and Rose; also screening during the impressive Kinoteka Film Festival this year.
The drama kicks off when Halina’s boss (Eryk Lubos) suggests promotion at the supermarket. Initially, it seems a no-brainer: greater responsibility but more money, social status and a new computer for her daughter Misia (Julia Czuraj) who’s dead against the whole idea. Promotion is beyond her wildest dreams and Halina is determined to give it a go and heads off for a ghastly team-buidling course where all the management is male and the watchword is “Productivity”!: echoing TwentyTwelve, the recent BBC4 satire. Halina realises promotion is a poisoned challis of toxic personalities and nightmares she hadn’t bargained for. But when her boss demands staff cut-backs (“Sack the old one or the pregnant one!”) she falls foul of the sisterhood and bitterly regrets her decision. And it seems like Misia is going off the rails. But Halina won’t give up.
Katarzyna Kwiatowska gives a strong and heartfelt performance as the modest but genuinely well-meaning Halina, battling against a turbulent tide of female rivalry and resentment, mysogyny and making ends meet as a single mother with little support in a country where employment laws of day favoured the company and there is little hope for change.
Women’s Day is a gripping drama with a strong support cast reflecting a country that’s tough, competitive and male-dominated. It shows how women can be the bitterest enemies and the strongest friends and emphasises the continuing importance of the Catholic Church in family life and the dominance of men in society.
Halina’s mother is the voice of the older generation reminding her: “never turn a man down” and yet the male characters here appear manipulative, controlling but ultimately weak and unsupportive. Maria Sadowska calls the feature a “feminist western”. Women’s Day is certainly a parable of a strong, mature and feminine woman who considers the easy route but then takes the high road to High Noon. MT
WOMEN’S DAY IS PART OF KINOTEKA 2013. A SPECIAL FREE SCREENING WITH A PARTY FOR ALL ‘FEMALE SPIRITS’ TAKES PLACE AT THE RIVERSIDE STUDIOS ON 8TH MARCH WITH MUSIC COURTESY OF CULT HERO, DJ WIKA