You Are God
Bleak Polish drama about hip hop group Paktofonika
You Are God follows the career trajectory of Magik, Fokus and Rahim, aka Polish hip hop group Paktofonika. Trudging through their various dead-end existences in the bleak region of Silesia, the trio banded together to create something representative of their day-to-day reality. Their career was cut short by the suicide of Magik, aged 23, just days after the release of the band’s debut album.
The meatiest role goes to Marcin Kowalczyk as the mercurial Magik, overcome by the various stresses of young fatherhood, marriage, divorce, poverty and artistic integrity that mounted up in the two short years between the band’s formation in 1998 and his death in 2000. It’s an incredibly strong performance, with credit to both Kowalczyk and director Leszek Dawid for not making a saint of Magik: the rapper is moody, distracted and unreliable, brooding over his love for Justyna (Katarzyna Wajda) and constantly begging money from the band’s naïve manager Gustaw (Arkadiusz Jakubik).
Unfortunately, Rahim (Dawid Ogrodnik) and Fokus (Tomasz Schuchardt) don’t hold up so well: their characters are thinly drawn and, thanks to Ogrodnik and Schuchardt’s physical similarity to each other, almost interchangeable. The film also stumbles in its treatment of Paktofonika’s music: what should have been a strong selling point is shunted out of the way in favour of Magik’s domestic travails, and the songs that remain feel like last minute inclusions, the force of their lyrics lessened through ropey translation.
There will be a hardcore Paktofonika following who’ll be happy their idols have been given the big screen treatment, but outside that rather niche audience, there’s not a lot here for the casual viewer. One motivation for the release is abundantly clear: the film is preceded by an advert for an upcoming gig by Pokahontaz, Rahim’s post-Paktofonika crew.
Selected release from 21 September.