Behind the Scenes of Agnieszka Holland’s Visit

by Tina Nguyen

On February 15, Agnieszka Holland, a Polish film director, visited our school to talk about filmmaking, Polish cinema and culture, women working in the film industry, and her views on politics. Iga Lis (11) held the panel interview with the director. As one of the organizers, Iga shared insights into the planning of the event as well as her experience.

How did you come across Agnieszka Holland’s contact?

My father is friends with Ms. Holland, and he sent her an invitation to ASW on my behalf.

What motivated you to want to have her visit our school?

During the summer, before I even started the IB program, I thought about a unique activity that I can do for CAS. Many students, including myself, sometimes see it as something mechanical that simply has to be checked off the list in order to graduate. I decided that since so much time will be devoted to this, I should do something that not only interests me, is beneficial to other students, but also will grant me a unique experience. My idea was to organize a speaker series, where I would invite prominent personalities to the school and hold interview panels. In the near future, I’m hoping to invite a few other important people that I find fascinating, smart and compelling.

Ms. Holland is a world-famous film director. As of today, I would consider her as one of the five most influential Polish people in the world. I thought that this visit would be a unique opportunity for students, since not only did it gave them the chance to see her live, but also to ask questions, listen to what she has to share, and most importantly get inspired. Ever since I first heard her voice, Ms. Holland struck me as a poignant individual, filled with passion and dedication. Her concern with matters outside of her field, such as human-rights and gender equality is a sign of sincere empathy. I personally find this trait of caring for things other than the ones which solely concern us to be the most important in a person. If Agnieszka Holland ignited that feeling in us, then my goal has been achieved.

How did her visit influence you?

I think that the most important thing that I got out of this talk is her message on self-belief. As probably everyone could notice, Ms. Holland was as straight-forward and confident as one could be. The day after the talk, I heard many people, including my teachers, saying that her self-confidence was unusual. For me, this was just a confirmation of the double-standards that exist in our world. If a man would come up on stage, act and speak the exact same that Agnieszka Holland did on Wednesday, then no one would find anything different or extraordinary in it. And this is exactly what she pointed out in her talk. We must believe in our self-worth; be poised and show everyone that we are valuable. Women have it harder, because of the pre-conceived notion that they are not entitled to display the confidence that men can. As we can see from her visit, if you want to make history and have your voice heard, you must be loud and break the rules.

How did you feel when presenting?

At the beginning, I was extremely nervous. The fact that I’d be sitting next to a person like Ms. Holland almost made me feel incredibly unsure. Deep inside, I even felt as though I didn’t do enough to deserve it. That’s why I didn’t want to disappoint the audience, including students and teachers. I did not know what to expect. But the moment I greeted her, I felt a radiance of confidence, which inspired me to present myself in a similar way. When I told her that I was incredibly stressed out, she gave me a firm pat on the back, and reassured me that there is absolutely nothing to be nervous about. I found this act of sincerity to be incredibly compelling. When I returned home after the entire day, I felt a complete release of stress, almost like a deflated tire. I fell asleep and woke up four hours later.

What was the experience like to be interviewing her?

I don’t think that I could find a single word that could capture the experience as a whole. It was a merge of excitement, intrigue, stress and happiness. However, I think that the word that best encapsulated what I felt was blessed. I was and am incredible grateful for this experience. For Ms. Holland finding time, for the interest of the teachers and the students and for the opportunity to conduct the interview. But what touched me most is when the day after, classmates would come up to me and tell me that I did and good job and that the visit was inspiring. I think what I feared most prior to the visit was the fact that other students might not relish it. But hearing otherwise put a huge smile on my face.

How do you think the community reacted to the visit?

The feedback that I received was positive. Like with everything in life, not everyone is going to appreciate and enjoy it to the same extent. Nevertheless, what I found was that they were delighted with an experience like this one. I couldn’t have done it without the students help and support. And I thank each and every single one of them for it. After all, we are all a team, a family, and we work together to achieve a common goal.

 

Photos by Mr. Figlewicz

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