Kasia Roslaniec is unforgiving. The young Polish director has made two films to date, both of which have played at the Toronto International Film Festival, challenging and unnerving audiences, especially with her latest insight into youth culture, Baby Blues.
A response to the realization that a growing number of young people around Europe and North American desiring of being pregnant and having children, Roslaniec tells the stylish and confrontational tale of a teenage mother both proud of and plagued by her newborn.
“I found that teenagers wanted to have babies because it’s fashionable and cool, and it seems a lot of countries are in this situation,” explained Ms. Roslaniec while in Toronto. “Behind that is something sad and scary too, that these girls want to have a baby to have someone to love and love them back.”
Enter Natalia, a fashionable artist of sorts living in Warsaw, who roller skates in public and wears giant rabbit ears around town, tending to her child, taking advantage of any opportunity to take photos with him. She herself has a young mother, one none too interested in Natalia, or baby Antek.
“It’s a movie about egoism,” says Ms. Roslaniec. “It’s a Polish movie in that it presents a part of Poland,” but as she explains, teenage pregnancy is universal. For the director it wasn’t telling a personal story, or recalling an incident from her youth, it was seeing the world around her and commenting on it, crafting a beautifully tragic and richly coloured film around it.
With Natalia on her own tending to a baby while still being tempted and interested in the lures of youthful indiscretion, Baby Blues becomes starkly realistic and often brutally uncomfortable. With an honest look at the world, Ms. Roslaniec asked for much from her star, Magdalena Berus—once she found her.
“It was crazy,” she says, laughing. “I saw 10,000 photos, and after half a year of searching, I had the other characters, but not Natalia. There is sex, drug use, and violence, but most of all Natalia had to have a certain look, evoking compassion and sympathy, yet at times hatred and disgust. I didn’t know what I was looking for—I was just looking for Natalia. And then I saw a picture of a girl; I couldn’t recognize her face, I just saw she had these rabbit ears, and that was her.”
Ms. Roslaniec spent six months with her four young stars, none of who had really acted before, getting to know them, and discussing the subject matter at hand and a film that would ask much of them emotionally. What is captured is a story of an intimate and despairing descent, of children desperate trying to fit in, act as adults, yet desperate to maintain their innocence and imagination.
Baby Blues was shown three times at TIFF, with some in the audience overcome with emotion at its dramatic conclusion, and will make its way to Ms. Roslaniec’s home country of Poland, where she looks to continue making such powerful and critical works.