PFI Sets Strong Berlinale Line-up

Written by Katarzyna Grynienko

The Polish Film Institiute (www.pisf.pl) will see its largest presence at the Berlinale, with five films screening at the festival. The 2011 representation is a big improvement in comparison to the previous years, a result of PFI's determination to make Polish cinema visible and easily available abroad.

"This kind of presence in Berlin was long awaited. We have five films in the official selection, practically in every section. It is a sign that Polish cinema is important, that it counts on the international arena. It is important to note that all the movies presented in Berlin this year have been produced with the support of PFI. Their presence in the main selection is a result of the Institute's policy. There are more Polish films now then a couple of years ago and many more of them good and excellent," Izabela Kiszka, the Head of International Relations at PFI, told FNE.

Poland is represented in the main competition by The Prize (El Premio) directed by Paula Markovitch. The co-production between Mexico, France, Poland and Germany is a moving drama about the childhood of a young girl hiding with her mother in military Argentina in the 1970's. The companies involved in this project are Mexico's Kung Works, France's Mille et Une (www.1001productions.net) and Germany's Niko Film. The Polish co-producer is Małgorzata Staroń and her company Staron-Film, while her husband Wojciech Staroń was the cinematographer.

"We got involved in this project because of the powerful true story and personality of the director. From the very beginning we were convinced that this will be a great movie. I noticed that Wojtek and Paula use the same artistic language and thus understand each other very well," Małgorzata Staroń told FNE.

El Premio was produced with a budget of 3.5 million PLN (EUR 900,000), with 300,000 PLN from Staroń Film matched by PFI.

"The film has a universal theme of the relationship between the child and the parent and how this relationship can be altered by the historical and political circumstances. For us as Poles it is also interesting as it is a story of growing up in a military, oppressive state - an experience we can relate to due to our own history," explained the producer.

The international premiere of Suicide Room, a long awaited Polish drama directed by Jan Komasa, will be a part of the PANORAMA SPECIAL section, that includes films especially recommended by the festival's selectors as projects with big distribution potential.

"Berlin likes films with modern, current and engaged topics. The Suicide Room is such a film: a very mature debut and an important voice of a young filmmaker, produced on the highest international level," Kiszka told FNE. The film is a fusion of different feature film techniques and over 20 minutes of computer animation. The script evolves around a teenage boy who finds himself trapped in a dangerous relationship established trough an online game.

"I am always interested in exploring new themes and techniques," Komasa told FNE. "Three years ago, when we started this project, themes of internet and virtual reality were closer to science-fiction. Now they are more real and we can observe a wave of movies focused on this subject, such as Avatar or The Social Network. For Poland it is a first project of that kind, both on the script and technology level," Komasa said.

Suicide Room was produced by Studio Filmowe KADR (www.sfkadr.com). The total budget of the film was over 5 million PLN with 2 million PLN of financing from the Polish Film Institute. The close co-operation between KADR and PFI resulted in finding an international sales agent, the Danish company LevelK, during the production of the film.

"We were considering a premiere during other big international festivals but finally chose Berlin as it marks the begining of the distribution year. We plan to distribute this film internationally, and we are especially interested in meetings with American companies, as the subject of the picture might be especially appealing for the audience in USA," Komasa said. The Polish distributor of the picture is ITI Cinema (www.iticinema.com.pl) and the local premiere is planned for the 4 March 2011.

The Polish title in the FORUM section is Made In Poland directed by Przemysław Wojcieszek. The drama evolves around a 16-year old Boguś, an ex altar boy, who acts out on his disappointment with God. He tattoos "fuck off" on his forehead, arms himself with a metal rod and sets out to start a revolution on his block and look for new spiritual guidance. The movie was shot in July and October 2008 on location in Wrocław. The producer of Made In Poland is Gruppa Rafał Widajewicz (www.gruppa.pl) in co-production with Canal + (www.canalplus.pl). The budget of the picture was 1.5 million PLN (EUR 373.000) with 1 million PLN of financing from the Polish Film Institute (www.pisf.pl) and 200,000 PLN from Canal +. The film premiered in Poland on 26 May 2010 and was distributed by Kino Świat (www.kinoświat.pl).

Polish culture and typically Slav artistic qualities are present in The Lost Town Of Świteź, an animated Polish title competing in the Berlinale Shorts section. Directed by Kamil Polak, the film is based on a romantic ballad written by Adam Mickiewicz. The film combines elements of oil painting and tempera transformed into 3D and joins them with the classic animation technology,CG animation and visual effects. The Lost Town Of Świteź is considered to be one of the most elaborate and artistically excellent Polish animations ever done.

The production of the film took almost seven years and involved several Polish and foreign artists and companies, with Se-Ma-For (www.se-ma-for.com) initiating the project and the Warsaw-based CG studio Human Ark (www.human-ark.com) as the film's leading producer. The film received 925,000 PLN of financing from the Polish film Institute. "It is an exceptional short film, that will be entered as a Polish Oscar candidate for the Best Short Feature next year," Kiszka told FNE.

The GENERATION section, focused on the films for the younger viewers, includes the critically praised Polish drama Tomorrow Will Be Better by Dorota Kędzierzawska. Three young boys who are living at a railway station in one of the Russian cities and decide to cross over to Poland in search of a better life. The drama explores the realities of human existence, so frequently determined by accident, and the universal hope that somewhere life is different and better. The producer is KID Film, a company founded by Kędzierzawska and Arthur Reinhart, in co-production with Pioniwa Film Inc (www.pioniwa.com), The Chimney Pot (www.chimney.pl), Non Stop Film Services (www.nsfs.pl) and Film Ilumination (www.filmilumination.pl).The budget of the film was 3 million PLN with 2 million PLN from the Polish Film Institute (www.pisf.pl).

For the first time there will be a separate Polish cinema stand in Berlin created by the Polish Film Institute in co-operation with the Polish Filmmakers Association (www.sfp.org.pl) and public broadcaster TVP SA (www.tvp.pl). The stand is located in the Martin Gropius Baus space, where European Film Market is held.

"This event has developed to be an important platform for marketing and sales. This year we are organizing industry screenings of Polish films but more significantly the PR management of all Polish productions is for the first time in the hands of a professional press agent. This is a practice which has been used for years all over the world and we hope that it will bring measurable results for the Polish cinema. If so, it will surely be continued," said Kiszka.