Another film I had the pleasure in catching at the Birds Eye View Film Festival was the UK premier of Mall Girls, the impressive first feature film from Polish director Katarzyna Roslaniec.

Roslaniec first noticed ‘mall girls’ whilst at her local shopping centre in 2007. Despite looking like normal teenagers, this collective are selling their bodies to the men they call sponsors. She began to approach them and after time the girls began to trust her; telling her the details of their sex lives, their need for materialism and the destructive home lives they return to. Roslaniec noted all these things down, picked up the language they used and began to speak to larger groups of mall girls around the country using the Polish equivalent of Facebook,

The result of her research is a dark, desolate piece of fictional film. Originally made as a half hour short whilst studying at the Warsaw Film School, Roslaniec explained in the post screening Q&A that she had always intended Mall Girls to be the feature it is today. The story focuses on Ala, a newcomer and outsider to her school. An ordinary teenage girl who finds herself being mocked by the popular, sexualised gang of girls in her class. After making her the laughing stock of the playground, the girls slowly invite Ala into their group and show her the way of a mall girl.

The film asks many questions about Poland’s society twenty years after the fall of communism, questioning not just its young society but its older generations too. The girls in the film are all hiding hurt and heartbreak from their home lives, leading to the apparent lack of respect they have for themselves and their bodies. In its predominantly Catholic country the film has caused a major storm both as a box office hit and in the news as many parents argue it to be an instruction manual for young girls.

The soundtrack throughout is something to be mentioned too. Written and performed by Polish rapper Adam Ostrowski, more commonly known as Q.S.T.R., the music speaks for the film itself. Although in Polish, subtitles are apparent with the music highlighting their lyrical importance as Roslaniec uses it as a tool to relate her audience to the film’s protagonists.

Overall Mall Girls is notable on all aspects of filmmaking. Performance, art direction and script make for a heartbreaking story captured beautifully within the heart of Warsaw. The film shows the stark contrast of these girls’ worlds, the colour and richness of the mall that they desire, compared to the bleak, broken buildings, in which they live. Already Mall Girls has won acclaimed Polish filmmaking awards and I’m expecting you’ll see it popping up at more film festivals within the next year. It is full of decisions that make you frustrated throughout, whilst leaving you sympathetic and understanding with the characters at the same time. I left the cinema feeling numb, but in the best and only way possible when seeing a film of such intensity.

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