Let us introduce you to the American director Michal Pietrzyk, who participated in this year’s Berlinale Shorts competition.
Born in Poland, following his father’s imprisonment as a member of Solidarność, he and his family emigrated to the USA when he was two. He began his career as an editor of unscripted TV, moving up to the position of field and then executive producer. He has produced over 130 hours of programmes for National Geographic, Discovery and Travel Channel, often in remote, dangerous locations. His most memorable projects include spending Christmas interviewing a cannibal in a maximum security prison in Russia. All on a Mardi Gras Day is his first independently produced documentary and his directing debut.
Demond Melancon is a Black artist who lives in New Orleans. Due to the radical gentrification that took place after the catastrophic flood, subsequent reconstruction and restructuring of the city, the artist was forced to leave his neighbourhood. He now lives in one of the poorer districts, far from the city centre. Melancon’s artistic focus is on beadwork, using it to depict African and American history. These allow for a new reading of events and a different view of people, quite literally linking the past with the symbolic world, colours and surfaces of the present day. Michal Pietrzyk accompanies the artist in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day, the French version of Carnival Tuesday, which has been celebrated in New Orleans for centuries. Parades snake through the city, led by Big Chiefs. Melancon is the Big Chief of the Young Seminole Hunters, a ‘tribe’ hailing from the Ninth Ward district. His job not only entails wearing the loveliest and finest of costumes, but also keeping the group together and leading them throughout the year. Melancon shines in his role and through his art!
What is your ambition in the film?
To discover why Big Chief Demond is so obsessed with the Mardi Gras Indian culture, and what is the collateral damage to his personal life. I also wanted to show the beauty and poetry of his art and personal story, but never extract it from the physical location where it takes place: the neighborhoods of New Orleans, with all their grit and patina.
What do you like about the short form?
You can be more experimental and playful with the format than in a feature, because the viewer is more forgiving; they will go on a strange journey with you for 20 minutes, but might run out of patience if you drag it on for 45. Also, some stories are meant to be told in a shorter format.
What are your future plans?
My wife and I recently had a daughter, so we’ve juggled early parenthood and completing this film; it’s been a big year. I’ll take this opportunity to shamelessly advertise myself and say: I’m looking for a job! I need to pay off all the credit card debt I incurred to make this film, which was a self-funded passion project. I’m also working on a feature film script and have a couple short docs I’m developing.
24 films from 17 countries have competed for the Golden and Silver Bear, the Audi Short Film Award, endowed with 20,000 euros, and a nomination as “Berlin Short Film Candidate for the European Film Awards 2019”.