Poetic Structures: Interview with Kazik Radwanski


Christie Pits Film Festival’s summer 2018 tour of Cinematic Cities around the world will come to a close with Alfred Hitchcock's indelible San Francisco thriller, Vertigo! Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Vertigo captures the city of San Francisco like no other film. Vertigo is paired with rising star local filmmaker Kazik Radwanski's film Scaffold, a short documentary about recent immigrants to Toronto who break the routine of their scaffolding job by observing people in the neighbourhood below from their unique vantage point.

Be sure to check out Toronto Outdoor Picture Show’s screening of another Hitchcock classic, To Catch A Thief, at Parkway Forest Park on August 23rd.

TOPS: This year's programme is titled Cinematic Cities, a theme that draws bridges between vibrant and complex cities around the world while highlighting the people who make each of these cities unique. Is there a city that you dream of capturing on camera?

Kazik Radwanski: I'm more attracted to nowhere places and the minutiae of them. I love the spirit found in the crooked and cracked sidewalks of Ted Fendt's films made in New Jersey or the lonely roads and desolate lots of Ashley Mckenzie's Cape Breton.

TOPS: Scaffold is shot primarily in close-up, observing the geometric compositions created by a home renovation. What inspired you to take this perspective?

KR: Renovation was my family's business, so growing up I spent a lot of time working for my father and uncle on different construction sites. I remember the uncomfortable feeling of being in someone's house and personal space. You would negotiate the situation by focusing on work with your eyes down. I was interested in the routine of various processes and the headspaces it provided. It became exciting to interrupt with coffee break reveries and people watching. The scaffold became a poetic object that represented the film and framed the film. A temporary structure built that would allow a brief but unique viewpoint for outsiders. It was our tripod, and our glimpses of the neighbourhood were defined by what you could see from the scaffolding.  


TOPS: Your film is paired with Vertigo, a film in which the protagonist also observes his surroundings from strange and unique vantage points. What do you think of this pairing?

KR: It's a huge honour and very intimidating. I feel too embarrassed to talk about the influence of Hitchcock. He definitely was on our mind when making the film. Especially Rear Window but also Christoph Girardet & Matthias Müller's Phoenix Tapes where they edited excerpts from 40 Hitchcock films into six short sections that reveal his obsessions and techniques.


TOPS: Like Vertigo, Scaffold also centres on themes of loss and memory. What motivated your decision to leave the film's protagonists unseen?

KR: There is a lot of ellipsis and half-told stories. I thought that paired well with the observations made by the workers, to hint at something without totally revealing. Often you get glimpses of other people where you don't get to know everything about them. I wanted to embrace the poetry of that. It feels truer and I hope it resonates with the partial interactions everyone has with strangers on a day-to-day basis.

TOPS: For you, what makes Toronto a cinematic city? Is there something special about Toronto that you draw inspiration from?

KR: I just want to make films set in Toronto because it is what I know and where I live my life. I draw inspiration from other filmmakers. Some of my favourite Toronto films made by peers are Nicolas Pereda's Tales of Two Who Dreamt, Luo Li's I Went To The Zoo The Other Day, Igor Drljca's Krivina, Matt Johnson's The Dirties, Antoine Bourges Fail to Appear, Isiah Medina's 88:88 and Sofia Bohdanowicz's short films.

Scaffold screens alongside Vertigo on August 19th at Christie Pits Film Festival.