Interview: One film for all: to perceive the worlds that cannot be seen - the worlds of the people around us.
Krzysztof Kaszewski, filmmaker, geologist and business psychologist by profession, interested in sociology. He works at Youth Culture Centre in Wrocław (Poland) as a filming teacher. Together with the "Nature without Barriers" project team, Krzysztof developed a nature film for everyone.
What are your previous experiences with accessibility?
For some time I have been creating audio descriptions for the Polish Film Chronicle in order to adapt it for people with visual impairments. I had to learn how to do it, it is not an easy task! It requires a huge vocabulary range to describe an image in a comprehensible and imaginable way in a matter of seconds.
In my daily work at Youth Culture Centre, sometimes I meet people with disabilities, most often with learning difficulties, with communication problems, as well as foreigners who do not know the Polish language well. I transfer my pedagogical experience and psychological knowledge to educational classes. I underwent training in working with people with cognitive disorders, with Down syndrome or autism.
I worked with socially excluded people. Together with young people from broken and poor families, I made the film "The Cage", which tells a story about the struggle with their everyday life. Recently, I helped a colleague in the production of a documentary about people using MONAR's help (MONAR is a Polish non-governmental organization focused on helping drug addicts, the homeless, those who are HIV positive etc.). I also conducted social research on the occurrence of violence and drug addiction among young people.
Impressive! Have you ever shot or co-created a nature documentary?
Yes, in 2011, together with Romuald Mikusek, I worked on the film “Owls of Poland”, I was responsible mainly for editing, but also did some pictures and assisted with sound. The producer was the Foundation for Supporting Ecological Initiatives from Krakow. The film "Owls of Poland" is not a typical film for the disabled, it was intended for primary school students, hence the simple language, simple explanations and animations. These elements also make it easy to process for people with learning difficulties. In the film, the sound corresponds to what is happening on the screen, it perfectly captures the sounds of nature, which makes the reception easier for all viewers.
For several years I was creating the Lower Silesian Film Chronicle. Using the old idea of the Polish Film Chronicle, I created a series of films about important events in the region.
My latest project is the short film "Milicz Ponds", which was shot last year. It presents the beauty of the Barycz Valley in a way that is accessible for all viewers.
How the idea of a film accessible to everyone was born?
Since my university studies, I have been interested in perception processes, education systems, and transferring knowledge and skills. That’s why I started psychological studies and had plans to work in social studies. Life turned out differently, but the knowledge I gained during my studies helped me understand how to teach people. Following this lead, I also worked in the international programme for the fast foreign language learning. I have always been interested in thinking and learning processes, which is why during my classes at Youth Culture Centre I mainly teach not how to hold the camera, but how to reach the viewer, how to show them your own vision.
What were the challenges you faced while creating the film "Milicz Ponds"? Did anything surprise you?
The biggest challenge was to create a movie for people with many different disabilities.
I asked myself what if the film was to be watched together by people with different barriers, e.g. deaf and blind. Or a person with impaired perception and perfectly healthy. Are they supposed to watch it separately, twice? No! Everyone should watch the movie together without deepening barriers and creating feeling of exclusion.
From the very beginning, I wanted the movie to be easy to use also from the technical side, so that anyone can easily turn it on. That is why I didn’t include a separate audio description function. It is great for the blind, but it is not suitable for people with learning difficulties due to the high concentration of verbal content. Instead, the voice of the lector slowly describes what is visible on the screen, but in such a way as not to bore people without restrictions, who can watch the film together with the disabled. Consultations with people working with the blind confirmed that this is a good and applied method.
This film (like most films) affects two areas of perception: visual and auditory. The use of an appropriate mix of stimuli (stimulating the perception of recipients) is the key to reaching people who are visually, auditory or intellectually excluded, but also all others. The mix is built in such a way that the auditory stimuli affect the blind or visually impaired, while at the same time the visual stimuli affect people with hearing problems. People with learning difficulties and fully abled perceive the film through a complete mix of visual and sound stimuli, each group at its own pace. This film is meant for everyone, so that different people can watch it together. It is supposed to connect, not separate.
What are your next ideas? Are you going to continue working for people with disabilities?
Yes, I want to continue creating audio description, it is a developing activity, it requires choosing very specific terms, because the time for description is very short. For example, how to describe someone's clothing in 2.5 seconds so that a blind person could imagine it?
The film is a 2D piece of work, but you need to show the three-dimensional space in it, just like the blind person creates a spatial map in their imagination.
How would you sum up your approach to universal filming in one sentence?
Universal Filming… Hmm, that sounds nice. I think the thing is to see the worlds that are hard to see - the worlds of different people around us.
Yes, I guess that means universal filming to me.
Thank you for the interview!
Here you can see one picture from the film for all made within the project "Nature without Barriers".