Oscars: Poland Selects 'Spoor' for Foreign-Language Category

Pokot (Spoor)  - Still 1 - H 2017
Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

Agnieszka Holland's hunting-season thriller won a Silver Bear at this year's Berlinale.

Poland has selected Agnieszka Holland's Spoor as its candidate for best foreign-language film Oscar consideration.

Set during Poland's hunting season, the pic centers on aging hippy and animal-rights activist Janina Duszejko (Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka), who follows a path of astrologically determined revenge after hunters kill her beloved dogs.

As leading local figures — including a small-town mayor who has an unfortunate nasal encounter with beetles — meet their ends in increasingly bizarre ways, the police are puzzled by deaths that seem to have come at the hands (or hooves) of the very animals that are the hunters' prey.

As the corpses begin to pile up and the police realize they have a serial killer on their hands, Duszejko's connection to the murders becomes increasingly apparent. When the local priest meets a particularly apposite end and the church tower comes crashing down, Duszejko understands it is time to make her escape — hoping to outwit the paternalistic forces of law and order one last time.

Said The Hollywood Reporter's critic Deborah Young of the film: "Picture Miss Marple as a vegetarian hippy and animal-rights activist living in Fargo, and you have the blueprint for Duszejko."

Poland's Oscar committee said the film was "a universal, carefully crafted story that certainly increases our sensibility. This patchwork of genres remains incredibly current and has us constantly asking basic questions. It is a film about the value of fighting for what surrounds us, for our environment and for those who are weaker than us."

The promotional campaign for Spoor — which is based on Olga Tokarczuk's best-selling 2009 novel Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead — will be launched at the Toronto International Film Festival. Magdalena Sroka, head of the Polish Film Institute, said the decision was no coincidence: "It is important festival films [be] in the running for the Oscars."

Spoor, a co-production between Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden, was produced by Studio Filmowe TOR with the support of the European Union's MEDIA program. Other producers include Heimatfilm (Germany), Nutprodukce (Czech Republic), Nutprodukcia (Slovakia) and Chimney (Sweden). Polish co-producers include Odra-Film, the National Audiovisual Institute, HBO and Agora. Co-financing came from the Polish Film Institute, and Eurimages contributed funds.

Spoor was released theatrically in February in Poland and has since been released in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Finland and Norway. Releases are scheduled for Sweden and Spain. World sales are being handled by Beta Cinema.

Poland has often made the Oscars shortlist, with nine nominations since Roman Polanski's 1963 debut Knife in the Water before it finally won in 2014 with Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida.