Polish filmmakers hope Oscar nom can cure ills

Freedom has its price. Three years after the Berlin Wall came down and several years after the collapse of communism, the Polish film industry is still in an embryonic stage and filmmakers are pinning their hopes for future indie pix on the country’s first independently produced film, “All That Really Matters.”

What matters to pic’s producer Marek Nowowiejski is an Academy Award nomination in the foreign-language category, which he believes will translate into domestic and foreign distribution deals. That could indirectly convince unlikely Polish investors that there is money to be made in low-budget foreign movies, Nowowiejski told Daily Variety during a visit to L.A.

It seems precarious to pin hopes for an entire industry on an Oscar, but the pioneer producer claims it’s either success in the U.S. or “it’s back to the government” for funds.

During the Communist regime, “there was a studio system which was geared around key directors like (Krzysztof) Zanussi,” and the studio was producer, Nowowiejski said. Thus, there is no history of indie producers or private investors.

Now, even with reduced state censorship and increased freedom of speech, Poland’s state officials “want to keep the monopoly. They don’t want an independent system,” Nowowiejski explained.

Another director, Krzysztof Tchorzewski, summarized the situation three years ago in Warsaw: “Before we had money but no freedom. Now we have freedom, but no money.” However, these filmmakers said wannabe indies never had either, so the situation has slightly improved.

“We’re finally in a situation where Polish filmmakers have the same problems as everywhere in the world: cash. That’s a big step after political hassles of the Communist era,” said helmer Robert Glinski.

And cash is indeed a problem in Poland. The story of how Nowowiejski, his scripter/wife Dzamila Ankiewicz-Nowowiejska and Glinski scraped together a mere $ 800,000 budget demonstrates how fragile the embryonic industry remains.

In a move familiar to some Yank indies, the Nowowiejskis sold their home to convince wary investors of their personal commitment. They spent the money on plane tickets to scout locations in Kazahkstan (where they eventually shot the film only two weeks after the failed coup attempt in the summer of ’91.)

The pair lobbied more than 100 potential investors and landed three unlikely candidates: an insurance company, an electricity congolmerate and even producers of cured Krakus ham. Now other potential investors are waiting to see if this indie film can turn a profit.

“If this film makes money, it could be a good example for other potential investors in Poland. If it doesn’t, it could be the end,” Nowowiejska said.

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