I Pay For Your Story

Lech Kowalski

France 2017, 86 min

Lech Kowalski makes uncomfortable films. They are so uncomfortable that they even frighten his producers. This was the case with Arte, the French-German television channel, concerning his film Drill Baby Drill (2013). No TV station wanted to distribute the film in the countries concerned, namely Poland, the USA and Great Britain. Its subject: the habitants of a small agricultural village located in far eastern Poland discover that the world’s fourth largest energy corporation, Chevron, wants to build a shale gas well in their village. When it comes to money and the destruction of nature through fracking, state channels prefer to stay out of it.

Lech Kowalski is the son of Polish immigrants who fled a Russian concentration camp during World War II. They finally settled in the suburban town of Utica, upstate New York. Lech moved to New York City in his early twenties and today lives in Paris. Perceived as an ‘American director’, his engagements are characterized by two guidelines: following personal traces and being on the side of different forms of rebellions. His first documentaries treated the struggle for freedom in the early rock, punk and sex scenes of New York. When the ‘underground culture’ became a lucrative market, Kowalski lost interest.

He discovered a new frontline for resistance: farmers, normal people who want to protect their natural environment and livelihood from being destroyed by the financial interests of big corporations. This dying breed of people is the result of the ever-increasing void between rich and poor, and the crisis of the middle class in general.

Kowalski’s latest film entitled I pay for your story is set in his hometown of Utica, where he spent a large part of his adolescent years. In a key scene, he kisses his mother’s coffin and promises her, “we are making the next film together“.

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