Podeswa film opens festival

“Fugitive Pieces,” written and directed by Jeremy Podeswa, was selected in May for the coveted opening-night slot of the Toronto Film Festival — a slot usually occupied by pics form such Canadian favorite sons as David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan.

The Holocaust drama represents a homecoming for Podeswa, who hasn’t directed a feature film in his native country in five years. That’s because Podeswa has been working nonstop in Hollywood.

After his debut, “Eclipse,” screened at the Sundance and Berlin film fests, Podeswa consciously pursued an international career. “I didn’t want to be limited by not being an American independent filmmaker,” he said.

After taking his script for “The Five Senses” to the Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab, where he met producer Alan Poul, Podeswa landed his first agent. “The Five Senses” went to Cannes in Director’s Fortnight and nabbed the Canadian film award at Toronto and nine Genie Award nominations. Poul then offered Podeswa a chance to direct an episode of the first season of HBO’s “Six Feet Under.”

“He sent me the pilot,” Podeswa said. “I fell off my chair, it was so sophisticated, so in sync with my own sensibilities. It was a good fit.”

Podeswa directed five episodes, one each season. He became an HBO favorite, directing for “Carnivale,” “Rome,” and David Milch’s “John From Cincinnati,” which required unusual flexibility. (He also directed for Showtime’s “Dexter.”)

“The shows varied in style and genre; some were period, comedy, drama or tonally complex,” he said. “I started to feel agile as a filmmaker, like I could walk into any situation.”

After adding Steven Spielberg’s TNT Western series “Into the West” to his resume, Podeswa landed an episode of Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ follow-up to “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific,” now filming in Australia.

Throughout, the Canadian filmmaker was developing his adaptation of Anne Michaels’ Orange Prize-winning Canadian novel “Fugitive Pieces,” about a European Holocaust survivor who emigrates to Canada as a young boy and can’t let go of his traumatic past. Canadian movie mogul Robert Lantos, who also produces many of Egoyan’s and Cronenberg’s pictures, backed the film, which stars Brit thesp Stephen Dillane (“The Hours”) and Croatian Rade Serbedzija (“Before the Rain”). “Fugitive Pieces” weaves Polish Holocaust horrors with sunnier interludes in Greece and Canada.

“Past and present are concurrent,” said Podeswa, whose own family came to Canada after the war. “Like the book, the film demonstrates how they co-exist.”

Podeswa is crossing his fingers that “Pieces” plays well enough in Toronto to land a Stateside distributor. John Sloss is repping.

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