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FNE FEATURE SPOTLIGHT: Janosik

Katarzyna Grynienko 2009-10-25

The opening of Janosik. A True Story in Central Europe came after more than six years in production limbo before being resuscitated by Polish funding.

{mosimage} Following strong openings in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia, where the film opened at th top of the charts, Janosik continues to draw audiences six weeks into distribution, maintaning a presence in the top 15.

Filming started in 2003, when about 35% of the movie was made. The script was written by Slovak scriptwriter and director Eva Borušovičová, under Prague-based Slovak producer Rudolf Biermann. However, by the end of 2003, the project had collapsed when the production ran out of funds.

Agnieszka Holland and her co-director Kasia Adamik, Holland's daughter and storyboard author, were eager to continue with the film and convinced Apple Film Production (www.applefilm.pl) to take on the project. Dariusz Jabłoński, an accomplished Polish filmmaker himself and producer/owner of Apple Film Production, spoke with FNE about the turbulent and challenging process of production and distribution plans for this title.

"Apple Film was initially interested in taking part in this production back when Biermann's company Charlie's was producing it. When producer ran out of funds to continue this project, Agnieszka Holland brought in the already shot materials and showed them to me. Their beauty and quality convinced me that something needed to be done for this project to see completion," Jabłoński told FNE.

"This was a risky endeavor for Apple Film, a company with a strong international reputation making movies since 1990. We had to figure out how to take over the production with regards to maintaining it's high artistic value. Luckily a lot of the film, costume and set design materials were available to us, and we transfered them to Poland. Before reaching an agreement with Biermann and his Czech company In Film in 2004, we had to solve some very complicated legal issues, which allowed us to become the main producer of this project. We did not buy the film from the previous producer, but took it over with an obligation of finishing the movie," he added.

Because of its collapse during the initial production phase, the film was marked as risky and dangerous to continue.

"The legal documentation that we had to go through allowed us to be fully prepared for the potential risks connected to this project. Our own experience, gained with big productions, such as our major hit Przedwiośnie (Early Spring) directed by Filip Bajon, made our company able to take on such a responsibility. In some ways we turned a 'big tiger' of a risk into a 'small kitten'," Jabłoński noted. "We needed to prove that we could see this project through, and we managed to convince the Polish public broadcaster and one of the biggest stations in the region Telewizja Polska (www.tvp.pl), the Polish Film Institute (www.pisf.pl), the Hungarian producing company EuroFilm Studio, and HBO Central Europe to trust us and co-produce this movie. Also I cannot stress enough how significant was the support of PISF and three friendly companies: TOR Film Studio headed by Krzysztof Zanussi and Akson Studio founded by Michał Kwieciński. The part of the film realized by it's previous producer was co-financed by the Slovak Ministry of Culture, but after we took the title over we had no further funding from the Slovak government."

The production of Janosik was back on track in the summer of 2008. "We all felt like this was the last year to do it, that it was now or never, because each artistic engagement will finally burn out if it is not completed; and also our cast members were getting older. This movie would not have been realized without the incredible determination of Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik, who inspired me to continue with this production. In a lot of ways this movie is filled with this 'female energy,' because both of the directors and the author of the script are women. And from our side it were my two partners from Apple Film, Violetta Kamińska and Izabela Wójcik, who were the ones who had to see this production through, because when we are at last able to work on it I was directing my two last movies," Jabłoński said.

The shoot lasted nearly 90 days in the Tatra Mountains, both on the Slovak and later on the Polish side, in Techerova, Pieniny, Spisz and at Podhale. The cast included over 100 actors, 2,000 extras and 60 horse back riders. Over a thousand live animals participated in the production. More than 20 carriages, 80 pieces of fire-arm, 90 piece of side-armory and 2 cannons were constructed especially for this title. The crew used up over 45 kg of gun powder, produced over 100 costumes, full armament for 18 robbers, and 5 historical carriages, as well as constructing several historical buildings as part of the set.

"The crew consists of Polish, Slovak, and Czech film professionals. After we took over this project I personally approached all the people engaged in the creation of the existing part of the movie. Some of them decided to continue their work with us, some decided to let others finish what they started. Even while some of them were bitter over what happened to the Slovak attempt of producing this movie, they all wished me all the best in finishing it. That's why there is a lot positive, emotional investment in this project from all the people who contributed to it," Jabłoński said. "We decided to give credit to these film professionals who started Janosik and that is why almost each credit on this production has two names, even if the Polish contribution was bigger in the end," he added.

The movie was one of the most awaited film events not only because it is the biggest co-production of this type in the Cent-East Europe region, but also because it joins the three countries with it's theme. The movie evolves around a story of a famous Slovak robber Janosik, a Robin Hood-type character in the Slavic tradition. His story was brought to the screen six times, one of which was a popular Polish television series directed by Jerzy Passendorfer in 1974.

"What we need to remember is for each of these countries this character means something else. In Czech Republic he is probably most abstract, connected to pop-culture and a TV series, not history. There the young audience will probably be a bit like a blank slate, open to good cinema. In Poland the film will be compared to the popular series, which is pointless because the Janosik of Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik is a very modern and subjectivley told story, of a young man who is more similar to Calvin Klein models then muscular hunks, who has this burden of responsibility and a feeling of danger hanging upon him. They discovered a very universal thread in this story and gave it a modern understanding. For Slovak audience this character means something extremely different, it is part of their national identity, a part of a history which constituted the Slovaks as 'the nation of mountain-men.' It was a big national disappointment when the Slovak production of this film was not revived. But I think that out of the three countries it is the Slovak audience that will be most pleased with the finalization of this movie," he said.

Janosik. A True Story will also differ from the previous realizations with its authenticity. A script written by Eva Boruąovičová was based on seven years of research devoted to this character and almost all the events have their historic roots discovered by the author. A television series commissioned by Telewizja Polska was shot along with the feature film. "The TVP decision to buy the series really influenced our production process. We knew that we can leave all the parts of the script that would not make into the movie and make them parts of the longer series. That way the script remained almost unchanged from the original version," Jabłoński concluded.


PRODUCTION: Apple Film Production

CO-PRODUCTION: In Film, Telewizja Polska S.A., Charlie's,
Eurofilm Studio, HBO Central Europe
CO-FINANCING: PISF, Ministerstwo Kultury Republiki
Słowackiej

Directing: Agnieszka Holland, Kasia Adamik
Script: Eva Borušovičová
Cinematography: Martin Štrba
Music: Antoni Łazarkiewicz
Set design: František Lipták, Marek Zawierucha
Cosumes: Anita Hroššová, Magdalena Tesławska
Montage: Michał Czarnecki, Marek Kráľovský
Sound: Krzysztof Jastrząb
Production manager: Paweł Bareński, Norma Kralovska
Producers: Dariusz Jabłoński, Rudolf Biermann, Violetta
Kamińska, Izabela Wójcik

Cast

Janosik Václav Jiráček
Uhorczyk Ivan Martinka
Huncaga Michał Żebrowski
Margeta Maja Ostaszewska
Zuzanna Katarzyna Herman
Barbara Sarah Zoe Canner
Anusia Táňa Pauhofová
Babcia Janosika Danuta Szaflarska
Szyposz Marian Dziędziel
Gabor Eryk Lubos
Baron Revay Rafał Maćkowiak
Pierwszy Sędzia Maciej Kozłowski
Matka Janosika Małgorzata Zajączkowska
Lani Krzysztof Stroiński
Satora Marek Probosz

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