Critics call on government film org to lead the way

A leading Polish film critic has lambasted his country’s handling of two high-profile fest prospects — “Reverse,” directed by Borys Lankosz, and “Dark House” by Wojciech Smarzowski, both of which were considered strong contenders for Berlin entry — while asserting that Polish films in general aren’t getting the international attention they deserve because they’re not being effectively promoted.

Tadeusz Sobolewski says the international careers of Polish films are being mismanaged and that the country’s national film institute should take a “more decisive promotional policy” to address the issue.

The lack of Polish films in the Berlinale’s official lineup this year — after two years when Polish film was in the spotlight with Andrzej Wajda’s “Sweet Rush” last year and his “Katyn” in 2008 — reflects a failure to guide producers more used to concentrating on box office success at home, Sobolewski asserts.

In an article in leading Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborca, Sobolewski quotes Berlinale topper Dieter Kosslick as saying he was “sorry” that he could not include “Reverse” and “Dark House” in this year’s festival.

The films were both award winners at Poland’s national festival in Gydnia last September and featured in the competition lineup at the Warsaw Intl. Film Festival the following month.

Shortly before it opened, the Warsaw festival announced that it has been awarded A-class festival status by international fest body FIPRESCI. Although the new category — which precludes films that have been screened at a festival of that status from being showcased at other A-class fests such as Berlin, Venice and Cannes — was not due to take effect until 2010, Sobolewski’s article suggests that the status change was enough to disqualify the films from official selection for Berlin.

Sobolewski asserts that instead of letting those films play at Warsaw’s event, the Polish Film Institute should have intervened and suggested they be positioned for Berlin. “Reverse” was Poland’s entry into the foreign-language Oscar race and stars Agata Buzek, who’s in Berlin this year as an European Film Promotion Shooting Star.

Maciej Karpinski, deputy head of the Polish Film Institute and director of international relations, said it was up to Polish producers to work with the institute if they wanted its help to devise strategies for international festival promotion.

“We have two categories of producers in this country — those who turn to us for help and advice and those who do not. The new A-class classification for the Warsaw festival is not the issue. Creating a strategy is,” Karpinski said.

Warsaw fest topper Laudyn said he would be surprised if Kosslick had made the comments attributed to him by Sobolewski.

“The main benefit of our new A-class status is that we shall actually be better able to promote Polish films. Of course, producers will now have to think more acutely about how they manage the festival careers of their films. I am surprised that Sobolewski saw the festival’s new status as an obstacle rather than an opportunity.”

Frauke Greiner, head of press at the Berlinale, confirmed that Kosslick had mentioned the two Polish films during a meeting with writers and critics last week.

Nikita Nikitin, a Berlinale delegate for central and Eastern Europe, confirmed that he had recommended that selectors consider both the films mentioned but that they had been disqualified because they had appeared in Warsaw’s main competition.

“It is not the fact that Warsaw had been awarded A-class status but that the films were in main competition at an international festival; if they had been in a sidebar they would have been eligible for the Berlinale,” Nikitin said.

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