Uncomfortable yet funny, Hotshot is a compassionate film on a women’s prison

9 October 2020

Hotshot will be screened on 15 October 2020 as part of The Calvert Journal film festival. Check out the programme and get your free tickets here.


In a damp, dark prison in Warsaw, 19-year-old singer Olka finds herself thrown into a new world — and perilously out of her depth. After running over a man while driving on drugs, the teen pop star suddenly swaps the stage for her cell. Away from the spotlight, she doesn’t seem to fit in with the other inmates, but tries to make up for it by starting a prison choir. Released in 2019 by Polish filmmaker Natasza Parzymies, short film Hotshot may be unconventional and at times rough, but achieves a heartfelt portrayal of womanhood against the most unlikely of backdrops.

In prison, Olka shares a room with Marysia: an older woman with an intimidating facial scar and very clear boundaries: the pop star’s chic bob cut, obsession with fitness videos, and naive, know-it-all attitude don’t sit well with her. While some of Olka’s followers send messages of support, she also receives angry letters from disappointed fans. Her parents sometimes visit her, but it seems like something beyond the glass divider of the prison meeting room is keeping them apart. “I don’t have anything to say to you,” says Olka’s mum. Her father tries to be supportive, but cannot hide his disappointment.

In an attempt to save her image, Olka embarks on a risky project: organising a concert with the inmates for their families. While the women show excitement, none of them can sing or seem keen to listen to the singer’s advice. It is only when Olka overhears Marysia talking to her young daughter that she discovers that her roommate not only has a soft side, but also a beautiful voice. Appealing to her feelings as a mother, Olka forms a new bond and convinces Marysia to be the soloist in the concert.

Although set in a bleak prison environment, Hotshot stands out for its complex, vivid character studies. The inmates, who mostly come from difficult backgrounds, all carry heavy personal baggage, but find themselves wearing the same navy jumpsuit, sharing an anonymous physical space detached from the world. As the short film progresses, through spontaneous dialogues and telling facial expressions, Parzymies skillfully allows each inmates’ individuality to shine through, layering fragments of their personal stories that come together for the concert and slowly create a compassionate human portrait of the prison.

Hotshot may be unconventional, and at times rough, but achieves a heartfelt portrayal of womanhood against the most unlikely of backdrops

Accompanied by an upbeat pop soundtrack, Hotshot takes audiences on a complex emotional journey in just 30 minutes. Uncomfortable and thought-provoking but with ever present hints of humour, Parzymies’ film opens a fictional window to the underground world of women’s prisons, exploring how new individuality, hope, and compassion can all arise even in the most hostile of environments.

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