Polish Projects Pitching for Partners in Russia

Projects at the Moscow Business Square industry event include Poland’s top directors, producers and cinematographers.

MOSCOW – Polish filmmakers presented a raft of potential co-productions at a Moscow industry event Monday that included some of the country’s top cinematic talent.

The pitching event at Moscow Business Square, a three-day industry sidebar that runs during the city’s international film festival, included I, Olga Hepnarova a $1.7 million co-production between Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia about the 1973 mass murder of eight people by a deranged 22 years-old woman.

With two Czech directors attached – Petr Kazda and Tomas Weinreb; a producer, Agata Walkosz whose credits include 80 Million, a Polish hit film about a Solidarity-era bank heist; and a cinematographer, Jolanta Dylewska, who lensed Agnieszka Holland’s Oscar-nominated In Darkness; the film marks a growing trend towards projects mining the common cultural and historical themes of central and Eastern Europe’s former Communist countries.

Holland, who graduated from Prague’s famous FAMU film school, directed HBO’s Burning Bush, released as a three-part television film earlier this year, based on the story of Czechoslovak student Jan Palach who in January 1969 died after setting fire to himself in protest at the crackdown that followed the relative political thaw of the “Prague Spring” in 1968.

Walkosz’s project is a much darker episode from the period about a young woman with mental health problems who decides to take out her anger and bitterness on society by driving a truck into a queue of elderly people at a bus stop.

Hepnarova later became the last woman executed in Czechoslovakia for a crime that is remembered there to this day.

With a soundtrack by Canadian indie group Crystal Castles, Walkosz said that although the film will be made in black and white and is set in the early 1970s, it is a universal story about the alienation that still drives “children in America to kill other children or a young man to start shooting at a Batman premiere.”

Other projects pitches included Kobro – logline “love, art, hate” – an arty interpretation of the life and times of Russian-born Katarzyna Kobro, one of the greatest abstract artists and sculptresses of the early 20th century whose life was torn apart by war and family breakdown.

The $2.6 million project has won plaudits from Holland and veteran Polish director Andrjez Wajda who noted how “life and art can be destroyed by the forces of history,” producer Iwona Siekierzynska said.

There were also pitches for The Photographer -- a psychological thriller featuring a disturbed son of a female Russian army officer in a 1970s Soviet military base in Poland and ends with a contemporary account of the murderous consequences years later of the child’s affliction; The Night Train a planned remake by producer/director Jan Kidawa-Blonski of a famous 1959 Polish film by Jerzy Kawalerowicz; Veles Veles, a “Wild Bunch in the snow” about seven stragglers in Napoleon’s army during the retreat from Moscow in 1812 written by producer/director Michal Otlowski and other projects.