Lack of Polish pics at Berlin raises ire

Polish producers and filmmakers will be invited to take part in a special seminar on better ways to promote their work internationally, as a public dispute over the lack of Polish films at the Berlinale continues to make waves.

Maciej Karpinski, deputy head of the Polish Film Institute and director of international relations, who penned an official response to an article in a leading Polish newspaper earlier this month that questioned the institute’s effectiveness in supporting Polish films internationally, said that an open debate was needed.

“It is not in our interests to continue this (dispute). We should organize a conference in Warsaw and get people together to talk about it openly and honestly about what their needs and expectations are.”

The controversy began after it emerged that two award-winning Polish films — “Reverse,” directed by Borys Lankosz, and “Dark House,” helmed by Wojciech Smarzowski — that had been considered for Berlin apparently were rejected after they screened in the main competition at the Warsaw Film Festival.

Polish film critic Tadeusz Sobolowski, writing in Gazeta Wyborca, implied that had the Polish Film Institute intervened, the producers of both films could have been advised to hold their films for Berlin.

Both films were apparently rejected by Berlin selectors because of rules forbidding films that have already screened at other international festivals. Berlinale topper Dieter Kosslick then added to Polish angst by telling reporters that he was “sorry” that neither film had been accepted.

The lack of any Polish films in official selection at this year’s Berlinale — a fest that had frequently screened the work of the country’s top directors — caused considerable disquiet.

Karpinski said that although the PFI vigorously defended its role in promoting films internationally — it has been a co-producer for such critically acclaimed films as Andrzej Wajda’s “Katyn” — positive lessons should be drawn.

Lankosz said that although he would have preferred his film had been selected for Berlin, the controversy had actually brought it a lot of attention.

“This was my first film and we did not expect it to be so successful. Festival selection seems to be a kind of game, and you do have to know the rules to play it,” Lankosz said.

“I do not feel a victim; I have used my time well in Berlin and there has been a lot of interest in ‘Reverse’ and everyone is interested in my next project, ‘The Fly Trap Factory,’ a post-modernist story about the wartime Lodz ghetto.”

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