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Locarno First Look Section Reflects Breadth of Polish Filmmaking

Maciej Pieprzyca brings 'I’m a Killer' to Locarno

The Locarno Film Festival’s First Look section, which zeroes in on projects in post-production, focuses on films from Poland this year. The selection underscores the breadth and depth of Polish filmmaking, comments Michal Oleszczyk, artistic director of Poland’s top local movie event Gdynia Film Festival.

“They mirror the significant diversity of current Polish cinema: old masters like Filip Bajon, international productions like ‘Kigali,’ a children’s movie, ‘Day of Chocolate,’ and so on,” he says.

Maciej Pieprzyca, who brings “I’m a Killer” to Locarno, follows up on a strong preceding pic. 2013’s “Life Feels Good,” about young man with cerebral palsy, took the top prize at the Montreal World Film Festival, and won in four categories at the Polish Film Awards, as well as nabbing the audience awards at both. Pieprzyca’s latest film is a psychological thriller inspired by real events in the early 1970s. Following the fiasco of an earlier investigation, a young police officer is appointed head of a task force set up to catch a serial killer.

Oleszczyk, who has already seen “I’m a Killer,” says the film has “some unexpected humor and meticulous period detail.” He adds: “Visually, it’s to Polish cinema what ‘Argo’ and ‘American Hustle’ were to American movies: a semi-nostalgic trip to a rather troubled past.”

The filmmakers behind “Birds Are Singing in Kigali,” Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze, created waves on the festival circuit in 2013 with their last pic, the visually stunning and elegiac “Papusza,” about the Romany poet Bronislawa Wajs. It received a special mention in Karlovy Vary Film Festival’s competition section, and won multiple prizes at other festivals and awards.

“Birds Are Singing in Kigali” starts in 1994, with a Polish ornithologist undertaking research in Rwanda. During the Rwandan genocide, she saves the life of the daughter of her Tutsi co-worker. She brings her back to live in Poland, but the two women are distraught and struggle to lead a normal life. It is “a story about friendship, forgiveness, and the power of nature,” according to the Polish Film Institute.

Maciej Sobieszczanski previously co-directed “The Performer,” which centered on performance artist Oskar Dawicki. That film won Berlin Film Festival’s “Think: Film” award for works that test the artistic boundaries of cinema. Sobieszczanski’s latest project, “Zgoda,” is far more conventional. It is the story of a love triangle in an extreme setting – a prison camp set up in 1945 by the secret police in Poland to hold enemies of the new Communist regime.

Filip Bajon, the director of First Look movie “The Butler,” has been dean of the directing department at the world-renowned Lodz Film School since 2008. His historical drama, which spans four decades, centers on a love affair between a young man from the Kashubian ethnic group and an aristocratic Prussian woman in the period following World War I.

“Day of Chocolate,” directed by Jacek Piotr Blawut, is “a modern fairy-tale about the power of friendship that overcomes sadness and brings happiness,” according to the Polish Film Institute. It centers on two kids, who are neighbors and friends. Reluctant at first, Dawid gradually lets the wild Monika pull him into her fantasy world. Blawut’s script won the Krzysztof Kieslowski ScripTeast Award for the best screenplay from Central and Eastern Europe in 2010.

“13 Summers Underwater,” directed by Wiktoria Szymanska, is “a journey to the afterlife,” according to the Polish Film Institute. “Seven people wander through memory and dream looking for the ones they loved but lost. Between the dreamscape and landscape, the dead and alive are finally allowed to communicate, because they can feel and hear each other.” As well as being a filmmaker, Szymanska is a painter and visual artist.

Katarzyna Mazurkiewicz, the head of international relations at the PFI, said the Polish projects selected for First Look “show diversity and represent different genres.”

First Look runs Aug. 6-8.

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