Toronto Title ‘Corpus Christi’ Picked as Poland’s Candidate in Oscar Race (EXCLUSIVE)

Corpus Christi
Courtesy of New Europe Film Sales

Jan Komasa’s “Corpus Christi,” which screened this week at the Toronto Film Festival, has been selected by Poland to be its official entry in the Best International Feature Film category of the Academy Awards.

The film, which world premiered as part of Venice Days earlier this month, follows 20-year-old Daniel, who experiences a spiritual transformation while living in a youth detention center. He wants to become a priest, but this is impossible because of his criminal record.

When he is sent to work at a carpenter’s workshop in a small town, on arrival he dresses up as a priest and accidentally takes over the parish. The arrival of the young, charismatic “preacher” is an opportunity for the community to begin the healing process after a tragedy that happened there.

The film is produced by Leszek Bodzak and Aneta Hickinbotham for Aurum Film. The co-producers are Canal Plus Polska, Walter Film Studio, Podkarpackie Film Commission and Les Contes Modernes. The Polish Film Institute and CNC provided support. New Europe Film Sales is handling world rights.

Komasa’s feature debut, “Suicide Room,” premiered in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival, while his sophomore effort, the World War II epic “Warsaw ’44,” was one of Poland’s top-grossing films in 2014.

“Corpus Christi” was selected by Poland’s Oscar Committee, whose members included Ewa Puszczyńska (Oscar-winning producer), Radosław Śmigulski (general director of the Polish Film Institute), Łukasz Żal (Oscar-nominated cinematographer), Mariusz Łukomski (distributor), Jan A.P. Kaczmarek (Oscar-winning composer), Anna Zamecka (director of the documentary feature “Communion,” which was shortlisted for the Oscars last year) and Małgorzata Szczepkowska-Kalemba (head of film production and film project development at the Polish Film Institute).

In a statement, the Oscar committee said: “‘Corpus Christi’ is a universal, moving and provocative story about the spiritual transformation of man, a new look at faith in God. This is a mature, wise film created by a young artist.”

At the close of Venice Days, the film received the Europa Cinemas Label, which is awarded by a jury of European exhibitors. The Label consists of a cash prize and assistance with the theatrical release of the film in Europe. The jury said the film is “an enticing mix of the tragic and the funny – sometimes violent, sometimes highly emotional. It is driven by a truly striking central performance by Bartosz Bielenia….The story represents very clearly the conflicts in society today and between good and evil.”

The Oscars’ International Feature Film category was formerly known as the Foreign Language Film category. Recent entries from Poland included Paweł Pawlikowski’s “Ida,” which won the Oscar, and the director’s “Cold War,” which was nominated.