Generations Under Sail “Pokolenia Pod Zaglami”

Polish language short film ready for festival run

Filmmaker Adam Benish is no stranger to the Valley. Benish found himself in Madawaska Valley a couple of years ago working on the filming of The Manhattan Project and thinking of his own family, he determined to make a Polish language film about the dynamics of different generations. His grandfather grew up in Barry’s Bay and while growing up Benish enjoyed camping and cottage experiences in the Valley. Because of friends involved with the Polish Scouts, he originally planned to set the film in Kaszuby where the granddaughter character would be a Scout having conversations about immigration with her grandfather. That plan altered when he himself learned to sail and Benish decided instead to shoot his story about Polish family members on a sailboat on the open water of Lake Ontario. Above the young Sienna, played by Mariya Gazizova. Photo Benish Films.

“Lights, camera, action” becomes “Boat safety, camera, action”

Embracing the concept of filming on the lake meant Benish had to accept that for safety reasons his role as director became secondary to the boat captain. Instead of following the traditional film mantra “Lights, camera, action” he and his shooting crew and cast awaited instructions and the all clear from the skipper before the camera could roll. To add a little spice to the situation, the skipper of the sailboat cast in the lead role was his father-in-law, Lucjan Modzynski, a veteran sailor. Benish explains that he had seen Modzynski inspire the family with his passion for sailing and knew he would perfect for the role – whether as the sailor or the actor – and says he gave a performance that was everything a filmmaker could want.

Filming on water. Photo Benish Films.

The director cheerfully described some other challenges faced by the crew. Generations Under Sail is shot entirely in natural light – almost as unusual as filming entirely on a boat. He decided to shoot in black and white “because I didn’t want to see that much blue.” His goal was to tell the story of an immigrant, using Polish language. While it has only one line of English dialogue, the film is more of a visual piece and Benish is confident audiences will not need subtitles.

Stephanie Jaskot as Sienna. Photo Benish Films.

The granddaughter is played by two actresses: Mariya Gazizova is the young Sienna, and Stephanie Jaskot (Above, Photo Benish Films) portrays her growing up. Local talent from Madawaska Valley is even included: one-year-old Zosia, the daughter of family friends with a cottage on Blackfish Bay, plays an important role in the climax of the film.  

Film synopsis

Sierra is a second-generation Polish girl growing up in Canada who spends summer sailing Lake Ontario with her immigrant grandfather. In this story of home, family and passing the torch from one generation to the next, the two set sail for what could be their last voyage together. Source: Benish Films.

Benish’s extensive experience with past films such as The Manhattan Project has encouraged him to expose Pokolenia Pod Zaglami to a run on the upcoming festival circuit. He is aiming for international festivals, looking regionally to cities with a strong sailing community. The hope is to hold the first screening at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) followed by festivals in Warsaw and then Chicago.

Film fans should watch for an announcement in August of the date of the TIFF World Premiere. Benish aims to organize local screenings next spring after the festival season. To view the trailer and to follow the film’s progress, tune in to Benish Films on social media. Look for @benishfilms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.


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