France / USA, 2005 (MIFF 2006, Documentaries)
Director: Lech Kowalski
A historical tragedy meets a personal rebellion in Lech Kowalski's idiosyncratic third instalment of his Wild, Wild East documentary trilogy.
East of Paradise opens with a harrowing description by Maria Kowalski - Lech Kowalski's mother - of her transportation from Krakow to the Soviet gulags in Siberia during World War II. She expresses doubts as to whether anyone who hadn't lived through that dark period could really comprehend what it was like. Kowalski then takes us into his own story, as the second half of the film recounts his debauched adventures in the punk underground of 70s New York.
As Kowalski confesses that he had been “in competition with his mother's pain”, it becomes clear that he regards his narcissistic descent into ever more degrading worlds - into drug culture and the porn industry - to have been an attempt to approach something of the horrors his mother experienced.
An inventive self-portrait, East of Paradise is an examination of a filmmaker's unusual rebellion against the tragedy of his mother's past.
D/S Lech Kowalski P Blanche Guichou, Odile Allard WS Extinkt Films
L French w/English subtitles TD 35mm/col&bw/2005/110mins
Lech Kowalski was born in London, UK, in 1951. His films include Sex Stars (1977, doco), D.O.A. (1981, doco), The Boot Factory (2000, doco) and On Hitler's Highway (2002, doco).