JOANNA by Feliks Falk is the first feature film to be shown at the Play Poland Film Festival. It is a story of a lonesome woman hiding a little Jewish girl during the World War II...
The story takes place in 1940s during in Nazi occupied Cracow. Joanna (Urszula Grabowska) finds a little Jewish girl (Sara Knothe) in a church and instantly decides to take her home. The girl’s mom was captured by Germans during a round up. Thus, Joanna becomes the only hope for Róża to be saved. Looking after the girl gives Joanna’s life a new meaning as it fills the void after her husband had left. She has not heard from him since the war begun. As the time goes by Joanna develops a strong, inseparable bond with the girl. However the price that she may pay for hiding Róża and for her love to the girl may prove to be too high.
Feliks Falk has managed to reconstruct these inhumane times in an incredible, uncompromised manner – he shows stories of individual lives trapped in the cogs of fate, caught in the web of events they cannot change. However history serves here merely as a background for the personal dramas each character. The focus stays on the small Joanna’s flat and her relationship with Róża for whom she becomes a foster mother.
The director emphasizes JOANNA is not just another film about the Hollocaust. Falk shows a woman, who in a hopeless situation finds strength and heroism to fight for those she loves. jOANNA is concealed in a historical costume but it praises universal values. On the one hand it shows the courage and sacrifice in saving the closest ones, on the other we see the unjust allegations which can ruin an innocent life. Similar story could have taken place in a different period and setting.
Urszula Grabowska’s acting is particularly amusing and has been acknowledged with the award for the best female character at the Movie Awards Orły 2011 as well as several nominations, including: the oldest Polish film award Złota Kaczka (Golden Duck) and the Zbyszek Cybulski Award. Grabowska brilliantly handled the challenges set by the difficult script – portraying Joanna required not only the emotional involvement, but also a physical sacrifice in the form of having her head shaved.
Falk’s film is a remarkable production perfected in every single detail. Everything in this film has been carefully thought through. The director avoided pathos swiftly separating facts from fiction. Therefore it is hard to argue with Andrzej Bart, who at the moment of handing an award for the best script to Feliks Falk in Gdynia said that the story of Joanna is told with modesty and simple resources, but with the power of ancient Greek tragedy.