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European grand premiere of the Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler in Gdańsk

Katarzyna Grynienko 2009-09-04
On Monday, a gala premiere of The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler took place in Gdańsk as part of the "Solidairty of Arts" festival.

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler was presented during the official celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII in Gdańsk. As one of the most significant productions devoted to Polish history, the premiere was attended by Polish President Lech Kaczyński and the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski. The first European screening was also visited by the cast and crew including the director John Kent Harrison, music composer A.P. Kaczmarek and the actresses - Anna Paquin, Marcia Gay Harden, Maja Ostaszewską nad Danuta Stenka.

{mosimage} The project initially started as a Hallmark Hall of Fame television production based on the novel of Anna Mieszkowska titled "Mother of the Holocaust Children", evolving around the life of Irena Sendler, a Pole who was responsible of saving children and getting them out of the Warsaw Jewish ghetto during WWII. "We found it impossible for a production concerning this great character to be realized without any Polish input," Anna Godzisz, the spokesperson of the Polish Film Institute told FNE. "The Polish Film Institute did everything to support this project and allow it to appear not only in television, but also in cinemas,", she added.

The battle for The Courageous Heart of Irenda Sendler to appear on the big screen started when Telewizja Polska, previously engaged in the project, decided to withdraw it's support for the production. Thanks to the immediate reaction of the Polish Film Institute (http://www.pisf.pl/), which devoted 2.5 million PLN for the print and rights to the Polish version, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage decided to support the cause with 1.5 million PLN and the Polish public communication company Telekomunikacja Polska provided the missing 1 million PLN.

{mosimage} "It was crucial for us to realize the cinematic version of this title, so it could be presented not only to the viewers in Poland but also all over the world. The story of Irena Sendler should be known world wide, as her life is one of the most outstanding examples of courage during the time of WWII and can surely be compared to characters better know for the same actions, such as Oscar Schindler," Godzisz told FNE. "We decided to present this movie during the celebrations in Gdańsk, because the plot of the movie is immersed in the WWII history and the life and the actions of its heroine deserved a grand premiere of this altitude and significance," she added.

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler is one of the biggest Polish co-productions. It was produced by Hallmark Hall of Fame (http://www.hallmark.com/), Beata Pisula - K&K Selekt Sp. z o.o.(http://www.kkselekt.pl/), Krzysztof Grabowski - Grupa Filmowa Baltmedia (http://www.baltmedia.com/) with the support of the Polish Film Institute (http://www.pisf.pl/), the National Audiovisual Institute of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage ( http://www.mkidn.gov.pl/) and Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. (http://www.tp.pl/).

The total budget of the title was over 38 million PLN. Over 2,000 extras were employed during the shoot and props and costumes were imported from Poland, United Kingdom and Czech Republic. The shoot was realized in Riga, which is extremely similar to Warsaw under German occupation, with the usage of several existing buildings and interiors in order to avoid the computer interference in the finished project.

{mosimage} After the premiere, the Oscar winning actress Anna Paquin, who played the leading part of Irena Sendler pointed out how significant this project is. "Before I got the proposal to play in this film, I had no idea about the existence of such a character as Irena Sendler, and she did save 2,500 of human lives! I hope that thanks to this movie a lot more people will get to know about this wonderful woman," she said.

So far the movie was seen by 11 million American television viewers and was very well received by the international audience gathered in Gdańsk. "There certainly was grand emotion to be felt after the screening," Godzisz told FNE " A lot of the viewers were very moved by the power of this film and we are sure that it will get great reviews once we start presenting it in and outside Europe," she added.

The movie will officially open in Poland on September 18, 2009, distributed by Syrena Films ( http://www.syrenafilms.com/).

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