“…none of the already published recordings show us Beksiński while painting - we have that on record! I think such fragments may be very interesting for other artists who are inspired by the work of Beksiński, by his technique. However, tapes contain a lot of ordinary daily life of the Beksiński family, too. They were normal, cheerful people who lived in really hard times and struggled with normal problems. Beksiński, as a man ahead of his time, decided to record it all - nobody had ever done that before in Poland.”
The works of Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński are renowned for their haunting surrealism. Presenting dusty dystopian landscapes, sparsely populated by gaunt and imposing figures. Beksiński’s work has inspired countless artists and informed creative directions in film, music and photography. Despite his enormous influence, there has never been much of a window into the life of the man himself. Kamil Śliwiński is hoping to change that. He is one of the driving forces behind a crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising enough funds to make a feature length documentary on Zdzisław Beksiński and his life. This documentary will build and expand upon the only previous film on Beksiński, “The Last Family”, accessing over three hundred hours of footage shot by Beksiński and his immediate family as well as interviews with family, friends and colleagues.
This extraordinary campaign has the support of Beksiński’s family, the Beksiński Foundation as well as the Polish Film Institute.
CL: How did you discover Beksinski and his work?
KS: I discovered the works of Zdzisław Beksiński many years ago in high school - somewhere on the internet - like most young people here. Poland had then only one permanent exhibition of his paintings in Sanok, a small city located quite far from the center where I live. Nobody organized his exhibitions in other cities, so the internet was all we had. I knew some surreal artists quite well, and was still discovering the works of other great Masters, but nothing delighted me so much as the art of Beksiński. A few years later, in 2014, my passion for this extraordinary man and his work revived. It was then that I decided to create a Facebook page where, in contrast to many other pages existing, I wanted to present the artist's work in the best available quality, share his thoughts, inform people about events and discover unknown works. Previously there was no such place on the social networks and I thought there should be as this is where people often search for information. Within three years, I created the most popular pages dedicated to Beksiński in Poland, without any paid promotion, only hard work. For several months now I’ve been working together with the Beksiński Foundation, which promotes the artist's heritage here in Poland. Everything I do now is also approved by the only the heir of the artist - The Historical Museum in Sanok.
CL: What do you believe makes a good story? And what is it about this documentary that you believe will draw people in?
KS: Interest in the works, but also in the life, philosophy and wisdom of Beksiński, is constantly growing. In the last year there have been published diaries of the artist, a great album with his work, and we also had a very popular movie inspired by the story of the Beksiński family. Unfortunately, I believe it did not quite accurately show the truth, although it was certainly very good technically. I do know well the story of the Mr Beksiński and his family, I know many of his relatives, friends... And frankly I don’t believe this film represented them as they really were. This caused a bit of controversy in Poland. But it seems to me that a similar problem is faced by every film inspired by real stories- it's difficult to show, in two hours, such an unusual personality like Beksiński. This is why I believe that the documentary created from the original artist's tapes, recorded by Beksiński himself during nearly 10 years of life in Warsaw, will let us look at him and his family from the good and real side - From the Inside.
CL: The amount of footage you have to work with is quite extraordinary and I imagine, will give the viewer a very personal insight into the artist and his work. Was there anything in the footage that you found surprising? Or enlightening?
KS: There are so many recordings! For example, none of the already published recordings show us Beksiński while painting - we have that on record! I think such fragments may be very interesting for other artists who are inspired by the work of Beksiński, by his technique. However, tapes contain a lot of ordinary daily life of the Beksiński family, too. They were normal, cheerful people who lived in really hard times and struggled with normal problems. Beksiński, as a man ahead of his time, decided to record it all - nobody had ever done that before in Poland. It is also worth mentioning that the artist's son, Tomasz, was also a very well known person in Poland - a recognized radio presenter, who shaped the musical tastes of thousands of Poles in those "gray days" of the 80s and 90s. They both shared a passion for music and film and on the tapes are plenty of interesting discussions about current trends!
CL: What makes you want to tell this story and share it with the world?
KS: I think this is something that deserves to be shown, especially now when people talk about Beksiński more often here in Poland, and also all over the world, and not always aware of the truth of his extraordinary life and genius. In my opinion, this is the best time to show the world that Beksinski was not only a genius painter but also really brilliant man who lived in his own way, and invented himself in any possible field that he chose.
CL: How well recognised is Beksinski and his work in Poland, his home country?
KS: Currently Beksiński is one of "the hottest" names among the fans of art, in particular the young and open-minded people. This is also due to the film. But earlier it was not so cool, you know, Beksiński didn't like the artistic community so much. He didn’t organize his exhibitions, he was a loner who preferred to spend time creating and being with family rather than entertaining the press and media - the critics hated him for it. For many years, I think as revenge for such an approach, he was often overlooked in major publications and events. His works were described by some of critics as kitsch. I believe it was very unfair.
CL: What do you hope to do with this film when it is complete? And how wide an audience do you hope it will reach?
KS: The first version of the film - a 44-minute documentary - had its only public screening a few years back in Beksiński's hometown Sanok, and was seen by only a few people. Since this time many fans still ask about it. So, the filmmakers decided to gather additional funds to complete the work and make the film available to a wider audience, both in small cinemas, TV and on the internet. Months passed and there was nobody seemed willing to support this idea. Until finally, the first institution to trust this project was the Polish Film Institute that decided to grant a subsidy to assist in making a feature-length documentary about the Beksiński family. Still, the amount granted was not sufficient to close the budget and that's when the makers of the film decided to turn to the artist's fans in Poland and around the world. This coincided with the onset of my collaboration with Beksiński Foundation. After a few meetings and discussing various options we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign. Taking into consideration the fact that a feature film about the Beksiński family has already been watched by millions of Poles, and with a lot of people around the world still waiting to see it, I truly hope the interest in our documentary will be very high. I hope so!