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Polish Filmmakers Look Abroad for Co-Production Partners

The Polish film industry is embracing international co-production as it seeks to integrate further with the global business, with the encouragement of the Polish Film Institute.

France’s Philippe Carcassonne shot Anne Fontaine’s drama “The Innocents” in Poland with a local co-production partner and financial support from the PFI.
He praises the professionalism of the local crew, and adds, “I would gladly capitalize on that experience and do it again.”

Among the upcoming international co-productions to have received PFI backing are Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War” and Agnieszka Holland’s “Gareth Jones.”

In addition to the institute’s existing production funds, its general director Magdalena Sroka launched another one last year to support minority co-productions, in which the Polish partner plays a supporting role. In 2016, the fund backed 15 projects, with companies from 22 countries attached.

“It is clearly one of Magdalena Sroka’s focuses to strengthen the co-production of Polish films and [the fund is] one of the tools to do this,” says Robert Balinski, coordinator of the institute’s minority co-production committee.

Among films to have received support from this fund are three that have been selected to play at the Cannes Film Festival: Roman Polanski’s “Based on a True Story,” which screens out of competition, already has U.S. distribution via Sony Pictures Classics while Lionsgate is selling worldwide rights; Lithuanian director Sharunas Bartas’ “Frost,” which runs in Directors’ Fortnight; and Israeli helmer Matan Yair’s “Scaffolding,” which is in the festival’s Acid program.

Jan Naszewski, CEO of Warsaw-based New Europe Film Sales, was an assessor for the minority co-production fund last year, and later picked up “Scaffolding.”

He says the Polish industry has a positive and open attitude toward co-productions, which can be seen in the context of a general shift to a greater involvement with the global film scene. “There is a whole generation of producers who think more internationally,” he says.

Encouraging co-productions is seen by the Polish Film Institute as a means of enhancing the international experience and relationships of local film professionals, and to build bridges with other national funding bodies, Balinski says. The desire is to “foster closer cooperation,” he says, and encourage a spirit of reciprocity, so that the co-producers and funds continue to support each other’s projects. “We like it when there are producers who already know each other, and if they have already [produced] a successful film together then that is a good sign.”

The Polish fund favors films with the potential to run in major film festivals, and those that include significant Polish involvement in the production, such as heads of department, actors and locations. In the case of Polanski’s film, the cinematographer was Poland’s Pawel Edelman, who was Oscar-nominated for the helmer’s “The Pianist.”

The fund often backs projects from elsewhere in central and eastern Europe as proximity, cultural ties and similar production costs make those countries more of a natural fit. However, this is not a formal policy and Argentina’s “A Sort of Family” by Diego Lerman and France’s “High Life” by Claire Denis have received backing.

One condition of the funding is that a Polish distributor must be attached to the project, and this adds to the attraction of a Polish producer as a partner as the country is a market. Also, Poland is a member of European co-production fund Eurimages, providing another route for the producer to seek financing.
Poland, which has high-quality crews and production facilities, is mulling the introduction of a tax incentive this year and that would give an additional reason to bring a Polish partner on board.

Below is a list of Polish films in Cannes and a select market list:

“Based on a True Story” (out of competition)

Director: Roman Polanski

Two women in a toxic relationship compete for supremacy.

Sales: Lionsgate

“Frost” (Directors’ Fortnight)

Director: Sharunas Bartas

Two young Lithuanians volunteer to drive a van loaded with humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Sales: Luxbox

“Scaffolding” (Acid)

Director: Matan Yair

A teenage boy, seen as a troublemaker at school, forges a special bond with his literature teacher.

Sales: New Europe Film Sales

“Time to Go” (short films competition)

Director: Grzegorz Molda

When Marta’s boyfriend is arrested, she and her father try to help him.

Sales: Gdynia Film School

“The Best Fireworks Ever” (Critics’ Week, short films)

Director: Aleksandra Terpinska

Three young friends must rethink their future plans in the face of armed conflict in their country.

Sales: New Europe Film Sales

Polish films in the market

“The Art of Loving” 

Director: Maria Sadowska

Cast: Magdalena Boczarska, Piotr Adamczyk

The true story of gynecologist Michalina Wislocka, who revolutionized Polish society’s views about sex in the 1960s and ’70s.

Sales: Be for Films

“Beyond Words” 

Director: Urszula Antoniak

Cast: Jakub Gierszal, Andrzej Chyra

An aspiring Berlin lawyer spends a weekend with his estranged Polish father. The young man starts to miss not just his dad, but the sense of having put down roots in life.

Sales: Global Screen

“Cold War” 

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Cast: Tomasz Kot, Joanna Kulig, Agata Kulesza

A love story set against the background of the Cold War in the 1950s.

Sales: MK2, Protagonist


Director: Malgorzata Szumowska

Cast: Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Malgorzata Gorol

A man undergoes a face transplant, but when he returns to his home village, the locals don’t know how to treat him, and he becomes a stranger.

Sales: Memento

“The Fugue” 

Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska

Cast: Gabriela Muskala, Lukasz Simlat, Zbigniew Walerys

A woman loses her memory, and thus her personality.

She starts a new life but, deprived of the awareness of her identity, becomes someone else.

Sales: Alpha Violet

“Gareth Jones”

Director: Agnieszka Holland

Stars: To be announced

True story of a young reporter who uncovers the truth of Stalin’s regime in 1930s Soviet Union; his reporting was said to have inspired George Orwell to write “Animal Farm”

Sales: WestEnd

“Loving Vincent” 

Director: Dorota Kobiela

Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Chris O’Dowd

The story of the life and death of Vincent van Gogh, as told by the characters in his portraits

Sales: Cinema Management Group


Director: Dorota Kedzierzawska

Cast: Tomasz Zietek, Jagoda Porebska, Pawel Wilczak

Intoxicated by the sense of freedom that speedway provides, a young rider searches for strength in solitude.

Sales: Kid Film

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