Contemporary World Cinema

Zacma: Blindness

Ryszard Bugajski

Haunted by her ruthless past, a former high-ranking security officer in Poland’s communist government seeks an audience with the Primate of the Polish Catholic Church, in this compelling drama from Ryszard Bugajski (Interrogation).

Twenty-seven years after the return of democracy, Poland remains haunted by its communist past. That sentiment is manifested in Zacma: Blindness, Ryszard Bugajski's compelling and forceful look back at the Iron Curtain's collapse. Bugajski has always been a muscular filmmaker and, having run into problems with government authorities over his 1982 debut film, Interrogation — which prompted him to take up residence in Toronto for a decade — he has revisited these troubled times in his subsequent work, unafraid of asking difficult and unsettling questions.

Zacma: Blindness is a relentless inquiry into a woman seeking an audience with the Primate of Poland, the country's top Catholic cardinal. It turns out that the woman, Julia, was once a high-ranking and particularly ruthless Communist Party official, having supervised the interrogation and torture of political prisoners. She was very good at her job. Now, years later, times have changed, and her need to meet with the Primate is shot through with complex, conflicted feelings about her past. Eager to have her meeting and get back to Warsaw, Julia finds a series of obstacles placed in her way. The nun who welcomes her explains that the Primate is very busy, so she may have to stay an extra day. Impatient, but realizing that the meeting is important to her own well-being, Julia gives in, spends an extra night — and ends up confronting the ghosts that torment her.

Series of conversations — which could also be described as interrogations — are the preferred mode of discourse in Bugajski's work. These moments, brilliantly acted, anchor Zacma: Blindness, providing the catalyst for an investigation into faith, idealism, conflicts between the spiritual and the material, and laying bare two profoundly different ways of viewing the world. Zacma: Blindness takes us on a devastating journey into the nightmare of Poland's recent past.

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