WROCŁAW: The 8th edition of Polish Days (25 July - 4 August 2019) within the New Horizons International Film Festival showcased ten new Polish projects presented at a special pitching session, including new titles by Łukasz Grzegorzek, Jagoda Szelc and Piotr Stasik.
Weronika Czołnowska, Head of Industry at the New Horizons IFF, told FNE: „The pitching section at the Polish Days always has a lot of applications and we are always faced with a great dilemma while choosing the projects, because the quality of submissions is so high. We like to create a balance and to present both the debutants, as well as accomplished directors of feature films.
That is why this year we presented new projects from Jagoda Szelc or Łukasz Grzegorzek, whose project was developed at NH Studio+ in 2018. At the same time we are always on the lookout for new directors like Sylwester Jakimow or Sebastian Tyczyński, who pitched their debut projects this year. As always we also try to cater to the needs of our foreign guests, who want to know what projects their favourite Polish directors are working on and discover new talents. They can find it all at the Polish Days.”
Let It Be / Tak ma być (Poland)
Jo (45) is a loving mother, a supportive wife, a caring daughter and a great teacher. But Jo leads a double life. Under the cover of afterschool classes, she secretly meets with her lover, Maciek (45), her colleague. Her son, as well as Maciek's son are students at the same school. What makes it even more difficult is that Jo’s husband, Witek (50) is the principal of that school. One day Jo finds an anonymous letter: "I know that you do terrible, terrible things. Either you confess them publicly in front of the whole school or I will do it for you". Jo hides the letter from her family and tries to discover the identity of the blackmailer on her own. “I would like Let It Be to serve as a cure for broken souls. The soul of the main character – Jo – like the souls of the other characters had been unwell long before Jo received the mysterious note. The chain of events unleashed as a result of the blackmail is a large-scale group therapy for the whole family: Jo, her husband Witek, her mother and her sons. The situation teaches Jo a lesson on how to think or rather how to choose what to think about. It teaches her another perspective. I wish for her to fear less and to suffer less as a result of the events portrayed in the film. I wish that also for myself, day in and day out”, said director Łukasz Grzegorzek. The film is produced by Natalia Grzegorzek through Koskino. The planned budget is 1 m EUR and the production is planned for 2021.
World sales are open.
Delicate Balance of Terror / Delikatny balans terroru (Poland, France)
A group of friends are spending time in a cabin surrounded by a forest and some neighbouring estates. Their chats about family matters and conspiracy theories set up an atmosphere of a carefree summer night. After a while the protagonists get into a habit of sleeping through their days, and waking up at night. At first, the situation entertains them, but after some time they run out of food, and so, decide to rob some of the neighbouring houses. Nights go by. Reality becomes arbitrary.
Another narrative is running alongside the main story. It is the narrative of a place, a plot of land surrounded by a metal fence – a camp. The protagonists, trapped in the night, cling to artificial light and search for food. Failure to complete the task results in a “trial” and execution by thrusting into the “dark zone”, where the protagonists are irretrievably lost.
“The Delicate Balance of Terror is an attempt to verify what a system is in the context of a crisis. Is it true that civilisation is a source of suffering, despite the fact that on many levels it has led to our comfort? The film talks about the group, but at the same time it holds on to the dramaturgical principle of antagonist vs. protagonist. The real conflict though takes place at the level of man vs. culture. I would like the film to pose a question – is the system of ‘punishment and reward’ under the jurisdiction of the majority court the only healthy way to maintain order and peace?”, said director Jagoda Szelc.
The film is produced by Łukasz Długołęcki through NUR in coproduction with Katsize (France), with a planned budget of 815,000 EUR. The film will be the first ecological feature film made in Poland. The shoot is planned for the spring of 2020. World sales are open.
More / Więcej (Poland)
A mentally disabled woman, Joanna (44) raises four children on her own. The court decides to take away two of them. Wlodek (55) is in love with Joanna and helps her financially. They renovate her flat, which convinces the court to allow the children to visit her at home. Joanna's older son (17), seeing his mother's new, happy relationship, beats Wlodek severely and is taken into custody. Joanna, in order to get the funds needed for a lawyer for her son, puts on a disguise and attempts a failed bank robbery. She is taken to a mental hospital, where she is restrained with straps, given tranquilisers and dies. Wlodek takes custody of the children.
“What moves me in this story is the figure of a woman who lives between worlds. Literature called such people 'God's madmen’. Sometimes they were prophets. According to the world, they lived in an inadequate way. They could not or did not want to live like others. Our heroine, in the ‘here and now’, tries, but she is not successful. It turns out, however, that her defeat is not a real defeat. This is contrary to what may be associated today with the word ‘victory’. That is, victory understood as domination. In the case of Joanna, the victory lies in service. In other words, it's about sacrifice”, said director Bartłomiej Żmuda.
Przemysław Miękinia and Magdalena Sztorc are producing through Before My Eyes. The planned budget is 1 m EUR and the production is planned for 2021. The DoP is the accomplished Polish cinematographer Joanna Dylewska, while Kinga Preiss will star in the lead.
The producers are looking for coproduction partners. World sales are open.
Other People / Inni ludzie (Poland, France)
Kamil Janik shares a tiny apartment with his mum. He has no perspectives, does casual jobs and occasionally deals drugs. Iwona is a young woman who cannot cope with her life. She cannot carry on living in a marriage in which she feels invisible. The middle-class environment is depicted as full of shiny toys which you can buy on credit. Both characters are trying to put their lives back together. They are seeking scraps of meaning in their existence, but they are unable to go beyond everyday life and shallow relationships.
“Kamil, Iwona and other characters in the film don’t have access to their true desires; using clichés at every turn makes them unable to see a human being either in themselves or in other people. Their world lacks love and a caring look at another person. The fact that Dorota Masłowska’s book is written in a form of a freestyle rap narrative, gives an opportunity to create a unique rap musical”, said director Aleksandra Terpińska.
Beata Rzeźniczek and Klaudia Śmieja are producing trough Mandants in coproduction with France’s Alcatraz Films. The shoot is planned for early 2020. The project received production support from the Polish Film Institute and the Mazovia Film Fund. The premiere is planned for the end of 2020 and the Polish distributor is Warner Brothers.
A Time of Gods / Czas Bogów (Poland)
A Time of Gods focuses on a group of seven boys, who by chance survive the end of the world. In a dormant quarry, they try to form a micro-society. They strive to assure safety, shelter, food and even mutual care for each another. They do it clumsily, but we believe that they are going to succeed. They build huts, fish and invent games to play together. For a moment they return to the world of their early childhood. Finally, however, primitive instincts or perhaps behavioural patterns from home or school start to prevail.
“What is it in these days that has turned the story of the wonderful life of my childhood (from the first version of the script) into a new, post-apocalyptic version of Lord of the Flies? This might have happened because I’m observing my country slowly changing from a democratic and prosperous state into a society full of hatred. It has suddenly turned into a state ruled by manipulators, who destroy public institutions and trust, which took years to develop. A man burns himself to death in the middle of the city as a sign of protest. War may break out sooner than we think”, said director Piotr Stasik.
Paweł Kosuń is producing through Centrala. The film, which took part in the Biennalle College Cinema in Venice, is a micro-budget production with a budget of 167,000 EUR, made with the support of the Polish Film Institute through the micro-budget film production scheme. The shoot is planned to launch in August 2019.
The producers are looking for distributors and sales agents.
Wet Monday / Lany poniedziałek (Poland)
Easter. Occult Klara (15) struggles to hide a dark secret from her nosy sister Marta (17). The introverted protagonist lives in denial of having been raped by Lucas (18), a boy from the sisters’ friend group. Afraid of judgement and stigma, Klara tries to act normal in front of them. As a result, she suffers from nightmares about bloodthirsty hares. She experiments with folk remedies, to no avail. She visits a gypsy living in the sewers and undergoes a cleansing ritual, but doesn’t realise that it will bring the carnivorous hares to life.
Klara discovers Lucas has tried to rape Marta. She reveals the traumatic truth about herself, but Marta doesn’t believe her. The conflict escalates until Marta understands her mistake but avoids confrontation. On Easter Monday, the teens take part in a traditional water fight. The sisters violently fight in front of their slut-shaming peers who disperse upon the arrival of the menacing hares. Once they are alone, the sisters reconcile. The hares bring Lucas to justice by eating him alive.
“The kernel of this story are the Easter Monday (in Poland – ‘Wet Monday’) celebrations, when the boundaries between play, eroticism and violence blur. Teenage sisters struggle to come to terms with sexuality in a world, which imposes confusing social expectations on them. Pagan rituals exist alongside the holy Easter traditions, reinforcing the contradictory values of sexual openness versus chastity. The world my characters inhabit is that of magical realism, akin to Marquez’s world. The mood shifts back and forth between eerie and light-hearted. My aim is to highlight the importance of empowerment through empathy and to encourage solidarity”, said director Justyna Mytnik.
Marta Gmosińska is producing through Lava Films and the shoot is planned for the spring of 2021. The planned budget is 850,000 EUR.
The project is planned as an international coproduction and the producers are looking for coproducers, sales agents and distributors.
We Will Be Fine / Jakoś to będzie (Poland)
Three 40-year-olds still live with their parents, constantly trying to earn some money in all possible, but mostly stupid and unrealistic ways. They vow to continue this way until they have, in their opinion, a genius and simple idea to get rich. It quickly turns out that it is not even the plan itself that is not going to work, but the way they decide to put it in practice.
“My main goal is to create a modern comedy based on an absurd and surprising sense of humour. The main strength of the film is its characters, who will be portrayed in a very realistic way. Instead of being typical comedy characters, I want them to be relatable human beings, whose ineptitude is funny but also arouses sympathy”, said director Sylwester Jakimow.
The film is produced by Ewa Jastrzębska and Jerzy Kapuściński through Munk Studio. The planned budget is 1 m EUR and the production is planned to launch in 2020.
Mira (Poland, Germany, Sweden)
Nobody knows that the midwife Mira (58) has fallen into a debt spiral. On the verge of a nervous breakdown, she attempts to rob a bank. Mira fails, but finally she takes a close look at her life. She decides to break free from the routine existence of a housewife next to an unloving husband.
"In my story, the emphasis is on the emotional journey of the protagonist, who transcends her boundaries in a critical situation", said director Anna Jadowska.
The film is a drama with comic elements, coproduced by producers experienced in European coproductions Donten & Lacroix Films (Poland), NiKo Film (Germany) and Garagefilm International (Sweden). The script is inspired by real events.
The project is currently in development, supported by the Stockholm Film Festival's Impact Award and supervised by highly acclaimed script consultant Sarah Golding. The principal photography is planned for the summer of 2020 in the Silesia region and Eastern Germany. The estimated budget is 1.45 m EUR.
God of Internet / Bóg Internetów (Poland)
Kuba (30) comes up with the idea of becoming a YouTube star. He establishes a channel with initially ambitious materials. When his videos do not stir even the slightest interest in the viewers, Kuba starts to perform pranks and dangerous challenges. His sister Iza (22) notices that Kuba begins to lose himself in the Youtube world. Iza decides to make a documentary about her brother. From then on, their relationship becomes more and more difficult.
“It’s a film about the social media and its impact on relationships. It shows a man who, despite success, is increasingly lonely. While showing how the bond between Kuba and Iza crumbles, we want to illustrate a global process taking place among young people and expose the fake nature of the virtual world. My goal is to make viewers believe that they are watching Iza’s film. It’s an educational film with the message: Profit from everything that the online world gives you, but don’t forget about the real world and relationships in it!”, said director Joanna Satanowska.
Alicja Jagodzińska-Kałkus is producing through Wonderland Pictures Company. The film is a micro-budget project with a budget of 167,000 EUR, fully financed by the Polish Film Institute and TVP. The shoot is planned for March 2020.
The Great Match / Wielki mecz (Poland)
Inspired by the director’s life, the film is set against the backdrop of the 1989 exodus of many Eastern Europeans, who sought a better life during the decline of political and economic prospects in their home countries. Joanna and Robert from Poland find themselves stranded in a refugee camp in Germany with their twelve-year old son Michał. Joanna stumbles upon a cleaning job at a tennis club owned by Jurgen, an expro-tennis player, who is training his son Florian to follow in his footsteps. When Michał decides to compete in a local tennis tournament, Jurgen, sensing raw and natural talent, offers to give him lessons.
“Billy Elliot meets Borg vs. McEnroe in this coming-of-age dramedy about a boy from a Polish refugee family, who dreams of becoming a tennis player. The lives of our characters will be filled with uplifting and tough situations, laugh-out-loud and emotional moments. The visual style will be raw and energetic. The framing will be bold and constantly on the move, the pacing will be fast. The period details alongside a nostalgic soundtrack will be present, but it will never overwhelm the story or the characters, whose dreams and ambitions will have a timeless, inspiring quality”, said director Filip Syczyński.
The film is produced by Anna Różalska through Match&Spark with a planned budget of 1.6 m EUR. The production is planned for 2020.