You Are Just Six Degrees Apart From Obama or a Mexican Farmer

8. 8. 2016

Author: Filip Šebek

Do you know that there is a theory that you are connected to any other individual on this planet via a chain of six contacts only? And that since the expansion of Facebook you might even be just five people apart from Barack Obama or a South American Indian? The Polish filmmaker, Bartosz Dombrowski has been inspired by the theory of American social psychologist Stanley Milgram to make a documentary roadmovie 6 Degrees. In it, with the help of Polish punk-rock singer and a Mexican farmer, a group of young people tries to explore whether we are really closer to reach other in the "shrinking“ world and whether the most common individual can have an intriguing life story.

The film is a part of this year’s programme of KineDok project, organized by Institute of Documentary Film. The nearest screening takes place on August 16 in an open air cinema focused on documentaries in Brno, called Palouk stříbrného plátna. At both screenings, the director Bartosz Dombrowski will be present to discuss the topic with the audience. During this Autumn, the film will also be screened ad non-traditional venues in Šumperk, Teplice, Liberec or Veselí nad Moravou, and of course, at many places in all partner countries of KineDok.  

Your film is inspired by the theory called Six degrees of separation. What was the main reason for you to decide to make a documentary about it?
Above all, I desired to make a film about random people. People who were not renowned before the shooting - and the theory gave us the perfect opportunity to do so.
In my opinion, every human being on Earth is interesting, and has his or her own history to tell – it is just about the perspective and the approach of the director to recognize them and  find out an appropriate and engaging way to present them. The theory can be seen as a construct allowing us to go from the general into the specific. So, you actually can’t say that the documentary is strictly about the theory, it’s more about the psychological situation of every person we met on our way. About their relationships, worries, dreams and way of living. It was very interesting to see how differently people care about relationships in diverse cultural backgrounds and absolutely astounding to see how many various protagonists we met just thanks to people simply knowing each other.      

How did you choose your protagonists?
As can be seen from what I mentioned earlier - we did not “choose” our protagonists at all. We just wanted to prove the theory without “cheating” – that means, we didn’t want to choose for example any well-known person or a person with a lot of acquaintances, because we thought that it would simply be too easy. Besides, the theory claims that _any_  person on Earth is linked to _any_ other person on Earth through approximately six acquaintances. So we draw lots to pick person A and person X.
The first person was chosen by 20 random propositions from the film crew and the last person, which sounds quite weird, by coordinates. Let me explain – during one day we numbers and put them together to form exact coordinates and degrees of latitude and longitude. We then sent a film crew to the point of their intersection and the next person they stumbled upon was our person X.

Let me quote the exact phrase from your film - it is an “unpredictable roadmovie, in which every day brings new surprises“...
It was unpredictable, because we absolutely didn’t know which people we would meet on our way. We didn’t even know where we would have to go to. At the beginning of the shooting every configuration was possible. So we had to be vaccinated for every continent.

I think that your film is very up-to-date. The young generation has hundreds of Facebook “friends“ but not so many real friends. Did you also want to show in your film how important it is to have real relationships as opposed to the virtual connections?
Not really. I think that this is an issue everyone knows about already. Surely, our documentary will show that people are hardly able to care even about their closest  ones, about family. The thing is, people just don’t spend enough time with them to get into healthy relationships. Actually I don’t think, that it was so much different in former times. People always have and had just few really good friends they can rely on I suppose. You just don’t have the time to establish more really good friendships, because you have to put a lot of work and energy into it. Surprisingly, a lot of family matters came up in our documentary. Family as a stabilizing institution.

You worked as a first assistant director with internationally acclaimed directors Michael Glawogger, Christopher Doyle, Robert Gliński, Bill Butleror Janusz Kondratiuk. Which of your working experience on feature films do you consider the most useful ones for your documentary film?
Above all, every single working experience is useful. Every single hour spent on set, script writing or tech scouts. When I should point out one particular director I worked with it’s Michael Glawogger. His documentary “Megacities” inspired me for Six Degrees. He also saw histories and drama everywhere. He unfortunately died during working on a very interesting documentary project which was also not written beforehand. He just wanted to show and document places and people he travels to within one year. He was able to show everyday situations in an emotionally very engaging way.

Your film became part of project KineDok and you have already experienced discussions with the audience  after the screening of your film. What do you think about this „KineDok alternative distribution platform“ and do you recall some interesting moments from the discussion?
Actually, I have been just at the opening of the KineDok project. Six Degrees was the opening film and yes, the Q&A was very vivid as we had the possibility to talk to the viewers even after the Q&A over a coffee or a beer. The audience is able to get to know the filmmakers personally. Alternative distribution platforms are very very important nowadays. Little movie theaters with an ambitious program are vanishing and so many beautiful movies just don’t get to the viewers. There are almost no theaters such movies could be shown in anymore. This is certainly a wrong tendency and a big problem for cinematography in general. Distribution is a _must_. Otherwise, in the near future, the filmmakers will makefilms only for an festival audience of filmmakers and believe me, filmmakers are the worst audience. Films are meant for the people and they have to find their way back to them.

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