A HUNTER OF DRAGONS
Wiesława Lewandowska talks with Witold Gadowski about a reporter’s investigation of spiritual evil
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: – When one analyzes your work achievements, one can say that today you are doing a very rare journalism, as for writing style, which is even poetically deepened, and considering investigative journalism; beginning with defiant columns on the ‘hooligan’ blog, till documentaries, interviews and books reaching back to roots of the modern terrorism. Finally, it is time for ‘A hunter of dragons…’. Why is this authorial series of TV documentaries is particularly important for you especially now?
WITOLD GADOWSKI: – Because my previous experience and observation of current events prompt me that it is high time I showed people these most concealed and masked - unfortunately by mass media – causes of evil happening in today’s world.
– You mean investigative journalism concerning entity evil, investigating evil?
– Yes, I do. This journalistic project appeared in 2010, when in Israel we were shooting photos to the film ‘Mitsvah’ (about the backstage of international trade of human organs). Being astonished by the incredibility of the Chosen Land, I and Maciek Gabrysa began to wonder if not to start this way of journalism and film thinking in which we are asking about the most important things.
– You mean religious – spiritual things?
– Only the religious-spiritual ones! We did not take interest in a particular aspect of travelling. We imagined a Catholic priest then, as our ‘hunter of dragons’, who will travel all over the world and confront his opinion on the world with various religions: with Tibet, with China, with Iran. We shot first photos presaging the serial and at that moment there happened something really bad – our ‘spiritual hunter of dragons’ suddenly resigned from priesthood…Soon the project prepared in details by us – with an idea for narration, even for music – already accepted by TVP1, after gaining control over the public TV by the Civic Platform, was rejected. Then Maciek Grabysa in cooperation with the Salesians, began to make films about persecution of the Christians (a series ‘The persecuted, forgotten’). Finally, we managed to make a film about the so-called Islamic State….But I still feel dissatisfied…
– Dissatisfied with the ‘hunter of dragons’?
– Yes, therefore, I decided, maybe too bravely, that I would do it on my own, that it would really be a strong cycle about a struggle between the good and evil in today’s world. Certainly, at once there appeared a lot of problems with television despite the green light given to me by the new authorities of TVP in 2016. So far, I have managed to make further 6 episodes.
– You devoted the first of them to a Sicilian mafia Ndrangheta. Why?
– Because Ndrangheta is the biggest mafia in Europe, the richest one, the most brutal and influential - it deals with the most spectacular criminal activity, drugs smuggling, weapon trade, and refugees smuggling, recently – and also related to Catholicism in a very strong and declarative way. I wanted to investigate this phenomenon of evil more thoroughly but not through ordinary journalistic investigation, following the fixed paths – I decided to reach to mafia members. In Kalabria I discovered poor, backward but beautiful Italy, nearby areas of San Luca, with a very hard Ndrangheta culture.
– Hard evil? Is it seen with a bare eye?
– Evil is usually more dangerous if it is hardly seen, it if is more masked. In San Luca about 80 per cent of men belong to Ndrangheta. I talked with a ‘soldier’ of the mafia who is still serving in Ndrangheta, although he has already spent years in prison and is also very religious and I was at the Holy Mass with him. I heard complaints of a mafia entrepreneur who was deprived of a hotel after an investigation. I also got to one of Ndrangheta leaders whom I could record only with a hidden film camera…A film ‘Devil stayed in Kalabria’ was made in this way.
– Despite the political correctness, you dared to call evil by name, didn’t you?
– Yes, in this film, I directly ask about devil – I am not embarrassed to ask religious questions about the good and evil. And wherever I am, I try to ask about devil. I ask everybody if satan exists or not, how they understand him….
– What do they say?
– The Italians in Kalabria answered in the same way as we would….Certainly, their understanding honour and religion is quite narrow. We visited a sanctuary of Ndrangheta in the mountains – Santa Maria di Polsi, where once a year there are big pilgrimages of the mafia from all over the world.
– However, your film is not a delight at the mafia’s religiousness, isn’t it?
– It is about a kind of duality, that one can be as religious as they are and be also deceived by satan. Making this first film from a series of spiritual reports from the world, I wanted to show that satan is acting also in the catholic Church and Ndrangheta is satan embodied in the society of Kalabria.
– Does this way of touching satan through a film fill you with pessimism?
– It would mean that he is effective. But, certainly, all our actions are accompanied by some strange, unexpected events, the bad and the good ones. When we were returning very sad, through Naples, after the experiences in Kalabria, which had depressed us, as it is completely non-European – at the airport we met pilgrims from all over the world, making a pilgrimage to Poland for the World Youth Days.
– Did it give you hope?
– Yes, it did. Everybody on the plane was singing and praying. Then I understood that nothing was accidental – we came out of the dark side and touched real faith in Jesus Christ again, who was present among those people….Then in Cracow I had an unusual experience during the Youth Days and though that Christ did not allow me to rest. The mission of ‘A hunter of dragons’ must help people discover mechanisms of satan’s acting, recall places forgotten by media in which evil is prowling.
– Why was Tajikistan chosen as a place for ‘A hunter of dragons’?
– Because people who are forgotten live there, people who are ignored by the world….This poor part of the world, the country governed by the post-Soviet dictator and by a kind of mixture of islam and sovietism. It seems to me that we touched the matter therein which devil is acting in a double way. Traitors, spies, secret police, bribery, nearly total erosion of a system of Islamic religious values, complete atrophy. We met heavy Muslim drunks which proves that a soviet man got prevalence over the religious one…
– So, what is Islam like there?
– The majority of people there are the Sunni but their Islam is very degenerated, unpredictable. But there is also a diversion of Islam deriving from the soviet roots, that is, fighting Islam, Islam of jihad and the so-called Islamic State. The Tajikistan inhabitants are known by being good soldiers and they have always been willing to join the army of the so-called Islamic State. Moreover, this is another reason for an unusual activity of devil – this is the place through which there is the biggest route in the world travelled by smugglers of heroin on which over 3 thousand tones of this drug is transported from Afghanistan. I saw Tadżykistan as a really physical experience of something really bad. Leaving that place, I felt relief.
– Later you visited Iraq…Why?
– We wanted to see Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, just as a spiritual path: we wanted to try to look at it from inside, we participated in a rite of an brotherhood Quadriya, a more radical one of two existing Sufi brotherhoods.
– How was it possible?
– When making the film ‘Insha Allah. Blood of martyrs’, we saw a lot of the Kurdish and thanks to their help we were treated as their people, we could participate in rites and see incredible phenomena – stabbing one’s body, eating torches…
– Did a question about satan appear?
– A Polish Sufi Andrzej Saramowicz explained me that it was just this incredible spiritual path which gives the man supernatural immunity. However, what is astonishing to me is where this immunity comes from – from the good or evil, because the good does not demand self-hurting from the man. I left this question to viewers, showing them this most peaceful Islamic tradition…
– After mystical experiences in the East ‘A hunter of dragons’ brings viewers into a clash with brutality of today’s Europe. Why is it Berlin?
– That’s why this is the best place to show a picture of an invasion of newcomers from Islamic countries. On the day of our journey from Berlin, there was the first assassination there; a van – in which a Polish driver was killed – was driven into a crowd at the market, which we had visited with video cameras every day. And it was a brutal answer to the earlier questions of my colleagues: ‘But what are you making this film about?’…Unfortunately, it was an epilogue of this ‘European’ episode of ‘A hunter of dragons’. It was a film about a danger which was imminent which is still diminished.
– Because one does not notice spiritual evil?
– Therefore we just want to warn Poles to be more careful in these spiritual matters. Making ‘A hunter of dragons’, I wanted – saying not humbly – to create a new kind of a report, a spiritual report. I would like to show that there is spirituality, that is the same reality as what touches us physically. Its best example was our report from Iran; although it describes a more-distanced spiritual Shia tradition than ours, it is worth noting that our all interlocutors repeat one thing: without morality, without religion the world stops existing. We show – towards reflection – that this is a language of a political debate in today’s Iran.
– Politicians are not ashamed to speak about the spiritual dimension of life, are they?
– Even in economics one speaks about spirituality. Announcing a new phase in the economy of the country, calling it ‘epic economy’?
– Is it the only and last place like that in the world?
– Among those which I have visited, this is the only one for sure, where people of public life draw others’ attention to the significance of the spiritual element. We were absorbing that atmosphere of Iran, getting more and more fascinated. Iran is still a country of poets, unusual art and culture, people do not even shout at one another there. I would like Poland to have a group which would treat art and artists in the same way as Iran does. In Iran one can see people reading books, having lots of books with them. One can see the cult of culture and education.
– And it happens in the country considered by the western world as the habitat of satan…
– We imagine Iran covered by a black cloud of a prophet Chomeini, whereas freedom, freedom of life here are astonishing. Women are very socially active, educated, are an important motor of life in Iran. In this Islamic Republic, indeed, some restrictions in politics are binding, however it may be so due to its phenomenon that Iran is one of very few dependent countries in the world….It is going its own way, unlike us….And its influences create ‘an Iranian corridor’ even reaching Saudi Arabia. However, those bad trends do not derive from Iran, which are seen in the Near East today. In Iran I understood that the devil of the Near East is Saudi Arabia.
– Because of its indecent richness?
– Yes. It finances Wahhabi terrorism. I would like to go there to make a film but it is impossible…
– So, what is going to happen with the film ‘A hunter of dragons’?
– I would really like to go to India although I am very scared of this country of ‘anti-Decalogue’ where all our commandments are negated. The spiritual report from India – from where spiritual fascination came to the west in XX century – could be the final of our cycle.
– Not the spiritual report from Poland?
– Poland is to be a hero in one of episodes and it will probably be one of the last reports of the cycle, because my contract with TVP is slowly expiring….And we have a spiritual problem with Poland; it seems to us that it has finally got a chance – which it does not appreciate – that it can finally go its own way, as it is one of few Catholic countries in Europe. If we do not resign from this spiritual element, but we will deepen it, Europeans will be arriving at our country in order to breathe our unpolluted air…
– ‘A hunter of dragons’ has been absorbed in dreams?
– Not completely. Today I meet the Belgians, the Dutch, who tell me that Poland is hope for them. They say: if you do not give in European bureaucracy, if you do not let Islam let in as it happened in Europe, you will be a mainstay of normality and peace. Safety and peace are becoming the most important goods of Poland and also economic hope. And as for dreams, I would simply like to make these spiritual reports so that people would know that God exists and so does satan.
– Do you think that people really want to know it?
– I admit that sometimes satan makes me doubt… In journalistic life I am constantly criticized, authorities of TV show their disapproval that there are no big numbers of viewers. I hear questions: What is it about?! Who is it aimed at?! Who will be interested in it?! That is why, I must do it, I should do it.