In an exclusive interview with the public relations of Documentary & Experimental Film Center (DEFC), Hanna Polak, a graduate of Moscow Film School, recounted her transition from a career in acting to becoming a passionate advocate for the voiceless. 

"My film was nominated for Oscars, the one about the children, 'The Children of Leningradsky.' It got a lot of other awards and went to many film festivals all over the world," she shared, emphasizing the pivotal role of personal encounters in shaping her documentary path.

When asked about her inspiration to become a documentary filmmaker, Polak emphasized the multifaceted nature of her motivation. While the initial drive was to shed light on the plight of children and humanity, she also drew inspiration from artistic influences, including studying under renowned Russian cinematographers.

"Art plays a vital role in documentary filmmaking," Polak explained, highlighting the need to not only address crucial subjects but to do so with artistic finesse and talent.

Expressing admiration for Iranian cinema, Polak lauded the strength and beauty inherent in Iranian films. She praised the late Abbas Kiarostami as a master filmmaker and acknowledged the global recognition of Iranian cinema. Despite limited access to Iranian films in the West, Polak affirmed her love for Iranian cinema and its significant impact on the world stage.

Turning to the power of documentaries in conveying the stories of the voiceless, Polak shared her firsthand experience in post-Soviet Russia, witnessing the struggles of displaced individuals during a time of social upheaval. "I never look at the people who I am working with as victims, even if they are victims, but also as role models," she emphasized.

"In making a film, you can affect the fate of the community or of the people. There may be some help granted to these people, or even your personal relationship with this particular protagonist can change this person's life for the better, hopefully," Polak explained, highlighting the broader impact of documentary filmmaking and the responsibility of filmmakers to be ahead of societal changes, providing warnings, perspectives, and, at times, solutions.

As part of the festival, Hanna Polak is set to conduct a workshop on "Ethics in Documentary Cinema." The workshop will explore the ethical considerations of observing events, the presence of the camera, and the interaction with subjects. Polak emphasized the importance of being humane to protagonists and maintaining fairness in portraying their lives, even if it means making tough ethical decisions during filming and editing.

The interview delved into Polak's thoughts on current global conflicts, such as the Russia-Ukraine war and the situation in Gaza. Drawing from her experiences in war zones, Polak urged for non-military interventions and emphasized the need for individuals to challenge political decisions that lead to wars. "We should force those in power to sit at the table and discuss the issue of peace. Non-military intervention is really needed anywhere," she asserted.

She expressed concern over media manipulation and propaganda in today's world, stressing the role of documentaries in countering biased narratives. Polak called for a collective recognition that certain wars are not for the benefit of the people, urging filmmakers and the global community to stand against such conflicts.

In conclusion, Polak reiterated the role of documentaries in bringing about positive change. She encouraged filmmakers to be courageous in speaking the truth, even if it challenges the status quo. 

 "We should never think that we are helpless, never lose hope, and never lose the belief that we can contribute to the well-being of all other human beings," she said.

Polak's insightful perspectives resonated with the festival's theme of exploring the power of documentaries as catalysts for social change.

The 17th International Documentary Film Festival of Iran, "Cinema Verite," continues to be a platform where filmmakers like Hanna Polak share their experiences, shaping the future of documentary cinema and its impact on global audiences.

The Festival, under the direction of Mohammad Hamidi Moghadam, takes place from December 18 to 23 at the Charsou Cineplex.


By: Ehsan Padeganeh