A large screen in the east hall of the main train station is catching the attention of many people passing by – so far, only the logo of this year’s DOK Festival can be seen. At 8:30 PM, the first film of the 66th DOK Festival, “Vika!” by Polish director Agnieszka Zwiefka, will be publicly screened here.
The east hall is bathed in warm light and a buzz of voices, an atmosphere that is rarely experienced in the main train station. All chairs are occupied, and people are making themselves more or less comfortable even on the floor beside and behind them.
Fortunately, we, Lina and Gesine from the DOK Spotters, were able to secure seats. Many of the attendees have brought blankets and thermos flasks because it’s chilly in the entrance hall.
After a warm welcome by Festival Director Christoph Terhechte and introductory words from the director, “Vika!” begins.
The documentary follows the life of Wirginia “Vika” Szmyt, a DJane in her mid-80s from Poland, for over four years. She refuses to lead a typical retiree’s life. Vika radiates joy and aims to motivate others her age to feel beautiful and enjoy life. In extravagant outfits and red lipstick, she isn’t just performing in Polish clubs.
In some moments, surrounded by young people, she forgets that life is finite. However, not everyone celebrates Vika. During a performance at a nursing home, where she should technically be among peers, she is met with ridicule and a rather disdainful attitude toward her approach to aging.
The documentary also sheds light on another aspect of Vika’s life: she has little contact with her children and grandchildren, and her partner passed away. Vika says it doesn’t bother her; that’s just how life is.
The film contains scences with musical elements – Vika and her friends dance in colorful costumes on the screen. Director Agnieszka Zwiefka later explains that she wanted to tell Vika’s story as Vika herself would, with music, dance, and color.
Vika’s vibrant life is suddenly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of partying in clubs with young people, she is now alone in her apartment, left with no other company but her cat. But Vika doesn’t give in and spontaneously hosts a gig via Instagram Livestream from her living room.
The documentary portrays Vika exactly as she is, showcasing all her facets with no taboos, as the director emphasizes. Thus, the film can be surprisingly melancholic and reflective at times, and in the next moment, the audience bursts into laughter, because Vika loses her temper as her cat won’t stay still.
At the end of the film, the audience offers a well-deserved round of applause. After a brief discussion with the filmmakers, the audience begins to leave the Osthalle.
As the opening film of the festival, “Vika!” was the perfect choice and is definitely worth a visit at the cinema!
We would definitely find Vika as a grandma cool, but we can also understand that it might seem strange to others to reinvent oneself at an older age. Vika’s story inspires us, even though she is almost five times our age. It’s never too late to start something new and celebrate oneself!