BIFF 2012 #6: Flying Pigs (Skrzydlate świnie, Poland 2010)

Oskar and Basia conduct the ultras of the Flying Pigs team

In her introduction Anna Draniewicz, the festival’s Polish consultant, told us that the leading man in this film, Pawel Małaszynski, was the Brad Pitt of Polish Cinema. This suggested that the film might be ‘popular’ rather than ‘arthouse’ for me and so it proved. Grodzisk is a small town in Western Poland and its football team ‘Czarni’ has just been relegated despite the dedicated support of its ‘ultras’ whose task is to focus on chanting and flag-waving rather than actually watching the game. The ultras are in turn protected from opposing fans by the ‘hools’ – who also attack the opposing fans and attempt to steal their colours. Anyone who prefers to actually watch the game is a ‘picnic’ and sits in the family enclosure.

We are told all of this at the beginning of what is a conventional genre narrative. And it isn’t really a genre about football – or really about sport at all. The relegated team now face the prospect of a local derby against an old enemy, a team that have been bought by a major business – a manufacturer of parts for the international aerospace industry. The company’s logo is a wild boar with wings – hence the film’s title. Our hero Oskar is the leader of the hools of Czarni Grodzisk – but he is also suddenly without an income after he crashes his van. If that isn’t enough he’s now the father of a son born to his girlfriend when he was fighting the police after the last match. He needs money now and the only option is to accept an invitation to work for the Flying Pigs as ‘manager’ of their newly-created ultras. Inevitably, he will face his own brother Piotr and all his ex-mates in the first derby game of the new season. He is also joined by his brother’s girlfriend Basia who loses her job as the (‘live-in’) organist at the local church when the priest tells her that being a hool is not acceptable for someone associated with the church.

The only real surprise is that the film becomes more a mix of family melodrama and dark romantic comedy than a violence-filled narrative about football hools (which the opening section seems to promise). New director Anna Kazejak-Dawid has created a very enjoyable mainstream crowd-pleaser which is handsomely-mounted in ‘Scope and boasts a good soundtrack. The central characters are all attractive young stars and what this demonstrates for me is the relative strength of Polish popular cinema. The festival brochure suggests that the film is like a Polish Green Street (UK/US 2005). I haven’t seen that film, but it sounds unlikely and Keith confirmed that the melodrama element means that the comparison doesn’t really work. I think the tone and the feel of the film is more akin to a widescreen version of a Shane Meadows film like This is England (UK 2006) or even earlier UK social comedies such as the Full Monty (UK 1997). I felt that the film was rooted in its small town sensibility and issues about local ownership and ‘community’ – similar in fact to the themes of Ken Loach’s Looking For Eric (UK 2009).

I don’t think that the film gives any pointers towards fan behaviour at the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine this summer. Except that Polish fans seem to have things in common with Italian ultras. I enjoyed this film and it would seem a good choice for a limited release in the UK if a distributor is so inclined.

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