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'Joanna' director Aneta Kopacz speaks about her unique style

'Joanna' director Aneta Kopacz speaks about her unique style.
'Joanna' director Aneta Kopacz speaks about her unique style.
Photograph by Kay Shackleton

Polish film director Aneta Kopacz talks in the exclusive in-depth interview about making a film of her vision and staying true to that vision despite the opinions of more seasoned filmmakers during the 20th Annual Palm Springs International ShortFest on June 17, 2014, in Palm Springs, Calif.

Artists today have so many influences and points of view presenting themselves from all directions, especially with the new interactions we have with social media. But if we look to the past at masters of fine art, we know that they were given more freedom to create to their art their way and that art, so many years later, still speaks to us as intended.

Filmmaker Aneta Kopacz had many voices from the film world chiming in on how to make her documentary film "Joanna." This documentary film follows a woman during the last few days of her life. A young woman, dying of cancer, but the film is not a study of disease. It is an exploration of life spent while it is a conscious fact that time is short. That each moment counts and should not be wasted. And that overall our lives are beautiful moments in time.

From the beginning, Aneta knew the kind of film she wanted to make, even before she met her eventual subject, Joanna. A headline in a newspaper caught her attention and she knew it was a piece on cancer, which did not interest her. But Aneta just couldn't get rid of the image in her mind of the photograph of Joanna attached to the article. Wanting to learn more, Aneta started reading the blog that Joanna had been writing for two years. She started at the beginning of the blog entries and she soon realized quickly that Joanna was the subject she wanted for her film. She found Joanna to be articulate, an incredible writer, insightful about life and someone that enjoyed the irony in things.

Aneta met Joanna during one of Joanna's public appearances. Joanna had been upset during a radio show she was on, and took off down a hallway. Aneta followed her, and approached her - not as a perspective filmmaker, but as another young mother. The two became instant fast friends. It was long after this that Joanna agreed to let Aneta make a documentary about her life.

As part of her filmmaking process, Aneta had taped a lengthily interview of Joanna. Aneta's film has a subtle way of directing and many of her mentors and colleagues felt that many audiences would not get the meaning of the film without more direct methods. They suggested she use a narrator and even at times when she was in doubt herself, Aneta thought of using some audio segments of Joanna's interview. But, she very wisely stayed to her original vision. The film is a magnificent portrait of young mother and wife living life to its fullest despite the fact that she is dying. It is sad at times, but a powerful testament to the importance of making the most of life.

So impactful is the film that Aneta just recently had a viewer tell her that after seeing "Joanna" he was leaving the film festival and going home to see his family. Joanna made him realize that he was missing the precious time with his family and wasn't going to waste anymore.

It is easy to tell, by my conversation with Aneta, that she has a view of life that will set her apart from other filmmakers, in the most delightful ways. As Joanna inspired Aneta, it will Aneta that will inspire the world. And thus, the spirit of Joanna will never end. What a magnificent way to begin a film career!

For my review of "Joanna" click here:

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