On Hitler’s Highway
FRANCE / 2002 / Polish, Rom, Turkish, Ukrainian, German, English / Color / Video / 81 min
Director, Photography, Editing, Narrator: Lech Kowalski
Sound: XYZ Music: Sal Bernardi
Producer: Blanche Guichou
Production Company, Source: Agat Films & Cie
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The oldest highway in Poland, built by Hitler for freight transport and to carry Jews, gypsies and Poles bound for concentration camps. While traveling along its route, where Bulgarian prostitutes now ply their trade, the director uses his camera to cut a swath through Hitler’s legacy from a new perspective.
[Directors Statement] While making On Hitler’s Highway I asked myself where do I belong in this story? Do I need to explain more than what is on the screen? How do I deal with the question of the story’s context? How can I make this story a visceral experience outside the culture it was filmed in? Every answer to these questions pointed to me. I am the solution. It is my responsibility to bridge gaps and to solve these problems. I must transcend cultural barriers by using the language of film. The fiction about documentaries is that they are real. The only thing real about a documentary is the filming itself. After that it is all fiction. If understood, this concept can be very liberating for the filmmaker. An excerpt from my published diaries written while shooting:
“The film, it seems depends on two dynamics. One is the forward momentum of traveling where the discovery of new things, new places, new people and the odd things in life keep the story intriguing. The second is information about history, the country and peoples’ lives. The style of the film is what I bring to the story. These interweave to hopefully create an interesting film. I also hope that all of these things together will add up to something beyond the film. I keep looking at scenes from the point of view of the audience. I personally am removing myself from the scene as I film it. I react purely instinctively; meaning that when a situation presents itself I quickly analyze what is taking place and how to film it. This happens very quickly in my mind and then I try to shoot in a consistent style and find some little unusual aspect in what is going on and a way to film it. However, the forward momentum of the story is not natural. I need to create this illusion.”
Born in London, immigrated as a child to the United States. His works include Sex Stars (1977), D.O.A. (1981), Gringo (1985), and Rock Soup (1991), winner of the San Francisco International Film Festival’s Golden Gate Award. All of his films have screened at international film festivals around the world and some were played theatrically. Moved to Paris in 1998. The Boot Factory (2000) is the first of the trilogy My Wild Wild East, themed around Eastern Europe, and won the Prix du meilleur documentaire de création 2002 at SCAM. The second film, On Hitler’s Highway, won the Special Jury Award at IDFA in Amsterdam and the New Vision prize at the Infinity Festival in Italy. The third film, East of Paradise is in production. Recent works include Born to Lose (2001) and Hey Is Dee Dee Home (2003).