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Director Aldona Kwiatkowski has an intriguing anecdote about the motivations behind her filmmaking. 

She was born in Soviet-era Poland in 1983 and when she was five-years-old her family took a car journey for what she was told was a holiday to the mountains.

“I still remember that moment when I looked out the car window and it hit me that the story they were telling me couldn’t be true. The drive just seemed way too long and the atmosphere in the car was different to all the other times.

I’m happy to have been given the chance to create films that celebrate a vehicle while at the same time explore topics that are relevant for the target group.

“When I asked my mom again, she now told me the real story, that we were moving to Germany. I feel that was the first time I experienced the feeling of loss - a feeling that is still very present in me and that I now explore in my work.”

Above: Aldona Kwiatkowski.


A melancholic mindset

There cannot be many commercial directors who will admit their creative drive stems from a “melancholic mindset that searches for belonging and a feeling of community.” But Kwiatkowski has indeed explored the subjects of loss, rediscovery, cultural differences and solidarity, in a number of powerful, poetic short films. The surprising thing is that she has done so for clients including Mercedes and Luftansa.  

In the She’s Mercedes series, she has made three films, focussing upon successful modern women from different cultural backgrounds - all films featuring Mercedes cars of different vintages. 

My Chosen Family, Kwiatkowski brings us into the world of visual artist Leena Al Ghouti in Dubai, offering an insight into how Al Ghouti and her emerging generation are affecting cultural change in the city in the desert.

In The Female Bond – made for International Women’s Day - four women, including the Malaysian musician Yuna, come together at a Californian retreat for a journey of self-discovery through music and dance. In Honey & Dirt, plus-size model and body-positive campaigner Paloma Elsesser drives her A-Class Mercedes through mountain ranges on Lanzarote to dance on its volcanic black beaches.   

Above: The Female Bond, made for International Women's Day.


Most recently, in My Chosen Family, Kwiatkowski brings us into the world of visual artist Leena Al Ghouti in Dubai, offering an insight into how Al Ghouti and her emerging generation are affecting cultural change in the city in the desert. Again the director emphasises female friendship and, more subtly, the liberation offered by the act of driving a car.      

Kwiatkowski takes us into... worlds with a discerning eye, and near-academic rigour.

For Luftansa, Kwiatkowski devised the digital campaign Heimweh – the German idea of homesickness – while she was a creative at Neuland+Herzer in Berlin, taking individuals back to the places where their parents came from, to reengage with their cultural roots. Then she directed those stories themselves. So, in Volcano Of Our Childhood, Danish-Japanese designers The Inoue Brothers go to beautiful Yakushima, Japan, the home island of their father, a potter, which becomes a journey of physical and spiritual discovery for Satoru and Yijoshi Inoue.

Mercedes-Benz – My Chosen Family

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Above: Kwiatkowski's 2019 film, My Chosen Family, from the She's Mercedes campaign.


The science of culture

In A Home Unknown, Kwiatkowski travelled to Blagoveshchensk in Russia where German actress Emilia Schüle was born. “Her parents moved to Berlin when Emilia was still a baby and never went back to visit, so she only knew her birthplace from the stories her family told her.”

In these films, the places and the culture of the inhabitants are as important as the human subjects, and Kwiatkowski takes us into these worlds with a discerning eye, and near-academic rigour. That not only comes from personal passion - the result of being an immigrant herself – but from her education in cultural sciences. She studied the subject at the European University Viadrina Frankfurt – situated next to the Polish border – and it has become a foundation of her filmmaking. 

The world of films and filmmaking “felt like a faraway place, somewhere in the US, where I’d never been.

“It made me more aware of how we create sense of the world we live in,” she says. “How different we might perceive it depending on our personality, but also on our background and the realities we create for ourselves and within our communities. In these situations I stay in a critical dialogue with myself and the people I collaborate with, to not get trapped by presumptions and stereotypes, but convey a genuine picture that people can emotionally relate to.”

When they moved to Germany, her family settled in a working-class neighbourhood in Dortmund, and grew up as a normal teenager who watched a lot of TV, hung out with friends, and she says had no idea that she could aspire to being creative as a career. The world of films and filmmaking “felt like a faraway place, somewhere in the US, where I’d never been.” 

I really loved to collaborate with the talent.

But on completing high school she visited Berlin for the first time – and her life radically changed. “I saw all these young people – my age and a bit older – doing art, living with friends, working on their own projects, hanging out in hip places. It blew my mind.” To her family’s surprise she moved to Berlin – and stayed there even while attending university in Frankfurt, commuting by train every day. At the same time she started working at a fashion fair in Berlin that showcased avant-garde designers. “Again it felt like entering a new world,” she says. “I really loved to collaborate with the talent, work on a small team and create shows that were not mainstream but represented how we saw fashion.” 

Lufthansa – Volcano Of Our Childhood

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Above: Kwiatkowski's film for Lufthansa, Volcano of Our Childhood from 2016.


First steps to filmmaking

Her growing reputation in the Berlin fashion world, which led to her to working for designers Ideal Showroom and retailer Yoox, then became her pathway into agency life. She joined flora and fauna media, working as a creative on projects for Adidas. That gave her insight into professional filmmaking for the first time. 

I felt the momentum of having found a way to express everything I’m interested in.

Her move into that world then came after her move to Neuland+Herzer. Having conceived the Heimweh digital campaign for Luftansa, her creative director offered her the opportunity to shoot it herself. “Before that project, I had shot smaller things, but more for myself and my friends,” she recalls. “By then I’d been on shoots and worked closely with a bunch of directors, but this was a huge step. I feel lucky to have had that chance as it all somehow came together. I felt the momentum of having found a way to express everything I’m interested in.”

You will always find something that inspires you, that feels magical, even if it’s the smallest thing.

She explains that from the first film her approach has been to be very organised and prepared in terms of the storyline and researching her subjects and locations, then to absorb the atmosphere and details during the shoot, making shot choices accordingly. In that way, Kwiatkowski’s films capture the important small details that add weight to the bigger themes. “You will always find something that inspires you, that feels magical, even if it’s the smallest thing,” she says. “I definitely take in these nuances, they can make the difference.” 

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week – A Fistful Of Wolves

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Above: A Fistful of Wolves, Kwiatkowski's film for Mercedes Benz fasion week in 2015.


For her contributions to the ongoing She’s Mercedes digital campaign she says that the narrative style has evolved with each episode, according to subject, topic and location. “The film with Paloma Elsesser is about body positivity and finding your own strength in the connection of body and soul,” she explains. “I wanted to have a raw location in nature, and the volcanic landscape of Lanzarote felt perfect for it - especially combined with bright colours for the styling and the red of the Mercedes-Benz car.”

In a changing world, her skillset can make a difference to how huge car brands like Mercedes are regarded.

By contrast, she sees the latest episode with Leena Al Ghouti in Dubai is “like a dreamscape or a mirage inspired by the heat” and as much about the desert that surrounds the city and “the delicate moments of finding community.” It is certainly a refreshingly alternative view of the Emirate, which she attributes to looking for personal stories about Dubai rather than rehashing the popular travel guides and blogs – and particularly by connecting with photographer Cheb Moha via Instagram. “Cheb introduced me to the creative scene, showed me places, we hung out, exchanged ideas, perspectives and I decided he was the right person to creative direct the film and help me with the casting.”

Above: Kwiatkowski's work for High Snobiety x Prada.

Automotive's future

Kwiatkowski is clearly not an automotive director in the classic sense – and she certainly does not regard herself as one. Her latest film, for instance, takes her back to fashion, with a film for the Linea Rossa collection for Prada [above], and Prada’s partnership with culture website High Snobiety.  

I think the female gaze isn’t just an option for advertising but a necessity. Brands want to reach different groups of people, depending on their product.

But she is certainly aware that in a changing world, her skillset can make a difference to how huge car brands like Mercedes are regarded “I’m happy to have been given the chance to create films that celebrate a vehicle while at the same time explore topics that are relevant for the target group - that’s what advertising should be about anyway,” she says. 

And she adds that female-centric car advertising, made by females, is surely here to stay.  “I think the female gaze isn’t just an option for advertising but a necessity. Brands want to reach different groups of people, depending on their product, so they need to have diverse creators for their advertising.”

Above: Spindle's Aldona Kwiatkowski.
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