Berlin Daily Spotlight 2013: Central & Eastern Europe

The Berlinale selection includes a few examples of rising Polish film talent that embody a change in the local biz scene, with femme helmers and producers taking a more prominent role.

For several years, pics from Poland’s younger generation at Berlin have been few and far between — slots have tended to go to established directors, such as Andrzej Wajda.

This year’s Berlinale looks like a turning point: two films by up-and-coming femme helmers are in official selection: 39-year-old Malgorzata Szumowska has “In the Name Of,” about homosexuality within the Polish Catholic church, in the main competition; and “Baby Blues,” a story about teenage parents, by Katarzyna Roslaniec, 32, in youth-oriented sidebar Generation.

Izabela Kiszka, head of international relations at the Polish Film Institute — the country’s major public film funder — says both films are “daring, important, modern and up-to-date European cinema.”

She adds, “What’s important is that the producers’ scene is being changed too.”

Both films are produced by Agnieszka Kurzydlo of Mental Disorder 4, and Szumowska is co-producer of both. Zentropa Poland is a co-producer on both pics as well.

The shift toward female directors and producers making socially explosive films is one Kiszka sees as significant in a country where conservative social mores remain strong.

Other young Polish producers include Otter Films’ Anna Wydra, who recently received Eurimages funding for “And There Was Love in the Ghetto,” a docu directed by Agnieszka Holland, Wajda and Jolanta Dylewska (who lensed Holland’s recent Warsaw Ghetto feature “In Darkness” and was selected as one of Variety’s 10 Cinematographers to Watch). It is produced by Pokromski Studio, which has been making a splash with its docu “Fuck for Forest,” about a Berlin campaigning group that raises money to save tropical rain forests by selling homemade sex videos via the Internet.

Upcoming projects look no less exciting.

From the older generation, Wajda is in post with Akson Studio on “Walesa,” his biopic of communist-era Solidarity movement leader Lech Walesa. The film has already divided Polish society months ahead of a possible world premiere in Cannes. Memories of the communist era still have the ability to touch a raw nerve in Poland.

Pics from the younger generation also contain several interesting projects: Jan Komasa, whose “Suicide Room” was in Berlin’s Panorama in 2011, is in pre-production on Warsaw uprising pic “City44″; Lukasz Barczyk is shooting historical drama “Influences”; and Urszula Antoniak’s “Nude Area,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Sisters of Mercy” and Lech Majewski’s “Dog Field” are all in post-production.

In Prague, Czech filmmakers are optimistic that this year will herald a renaissance in local cinema after a film law was finally passed.

The act, which was twice vetoed by conservative president Vaclav Klaus, sets up a Czech Film Fund that will distribute around $12 million a year to local producers; co-prods will also be eligible for funding.

The system, which will take a few months to get established, will guarantee funding to a local industry long in the doldrums.

Funded through a 2% levy on television advertising and 1% on both cinema ticket sales and cable and satellite advertising revenues, in addition to other sources, including VOD sales and income from the rights of communist-era Czech films, the fund will be independent of annual budget approval from parliament, a factor that affects the recently introduced 20% production rebate aimed at attracting more foreign productions.

Jana Cernik, head of development and training at the Czech Film Center, says there is optimism in the air again and recent productions, like David Ondricek’s Stalin-era detective drama “In the Shadow,” which was the country’s entry for foreign-language film Oscar, offers a glimpse of a resurgence in the sort of classy genre films for which the Czechs are known.

Although no Czech films made it through the Berlinale selectors, there are a raft of pics just out or coming through the production pipeline from established talents. These include Jan Hrebejk’s “Libanky” (Honeymoon), his fourth film starring Czech actress Anna Geislerova, and “My Dog Killer,” from Mira Fornay, whose 2009 debut about two jealous sisters, “Little Foxes,” won critical acclaim. “My Dog Killer” played in competition at Rotterdam film fest, which just wrapped.

MARKET HIGHLIGHTS

POLAND

Felix, Net and Nika and the Theoretically Possible Catastrophe
Director: Wiktor Srzynecki
Producers: Wlodzimierz Niderhaus, Wytwornia Filmow I Fabularnych (WFDiF, Warsaw)
Starring: Kamil Klier, Laudia Lepkowska, Maciej Stolarczyk, Adam Woronowicz, Marek Kossakowski
Logline: Three junior high-school students stumble upon a time machine, taking them back to Nazi-occupied Poland on a hazardous journey that tests their friendship and abilities to face any challenge.
Sales company: WFDiF

Lasting
Director: Jacek Borcuch
Producers: Piotr Kobus, Agnieszka Drewno
Starring: Jakub Gierszal, Magdalena Berus, Angela Molina, Juanjo Ballesta, Joanna Kulig, Andrzej Chyra
Logline: An emotional love story about two Polish students who fall in love while working in Spain only for a nightmare to destroy their carefree time in a heavenly landscape.
Sales company: Manana

Manhunt
Director: Marcin Krzysztalowicz
Producers: Skorpion Arte, Telekomunikacja Polska, Krakowskie Biuro Festiwalowe, Studio Produkcyjne Orka, Non-Stop Film Service
Starring: Marcin Dorocinski, Maciej Stuhr, Sonia Bohosiewicz, Weronika Rosati, Andrzej Zielenski, Alan Andersz, Sebastian Stegmann
Logline: Corporal Wydra, a partisan, struggles not only with the Germans and Polish traitors, but also with his own past in Poland under the Nazi occupation.
Sales company: Attraction Films

Yuma
Director: Piotr Mularuk
Producers: Piotr Mularuk, Yeti Films, Evolution Films (Czech Republic), Las Vegas Power Energy Drink (Poland)
Starring: Jakub Gierszal, Katarzyna Figura, Tomasz Kot, Jakub Kamienski, Krzysztof Skonieczny, Helen Sujecka
Logline: The story of Zyga, a Polish kid in his 20s, who wants to take charge of his life after the fall of communism, but in a time of chaos and moral anarchy, unwittingly becomes a gangster.
Sales company: Piotr Mularuk, Yeti Films

CZECH REPUBLIC

In the Shadow
Director: David Ondricek
Producers: Ehud Bleiberg, David Ondricek
Starring: Ivan Trojan, Sebastian Koch, Sonia Norisova
Logline: Film noir detective story set in Stalin-era Czechoslovakia where a burglary investigation uncovers a state conspiracy to discredit the Jews who survived the Holocaust in the country.
Sales company: Bleiberg Entertainment

The Third Half
Director: Darko Mitrevski
Producers: Robert Naskov, Darko Mitrevski (Kino Oko)
Starring: Katarina Ivanovska, Sasko Kocev, Richard Sammel, Rade Sherbedzija, Emil Ruben
Logline: Macedonia/Czech co-production that is neither a war story nor Holocaust story although it is set during World War II at a tragic time for Macedonian Jews.
Sales company: The Little Film Co.

HUNGARY

In the Name of Sherlock Holmes
Director: Zsolt Bernath
Producers: Karoly Vaczy, Sherlockfilm
Starring: Kristof Szenasi, Adam Ungvar, Nikolett Kugler
Logline: What would you do for your friends?
Sales company: Hungarian National Film Fund, Klaudia Androsovits

White God
Director: Kornel Mundruczo
Producers: Viktoria Petranyi, Eszter Gyarfas, Proton Cinema
Starring: To be announced
Logline: The adventures of a girl and her best friend, a dog. Sixth feature from the director of “Pleasant Days,” which won a Silver Leopard in Locarno.
Sales company: The Match Factory

SLOVAKIA

My Dog Killer
Director: Mira Fornay
Producers: Mirafox, Cineart TV Prague
Starring: Adam Mihal, Marian Kuruc, Libor Filo.
Logline: A day in the life of 18-year-old Marek as he attempts to gain acceptance in the local neo-Nazi scene. Played in competition in Rotterdam.
Sales company: M-Appeal

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