IFC Films has acquired U.S. rights to “The Painted Bird,” the critically acclaimed and controversial adaptation of the Jerzy Kosinski novel. The film will be the Czech Republic’s Oscar entry for the foreign language category at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Directed, written and produced by Václav Marhoul (“Smart Philip”), the film is an unsparing look at the horrors of the Holocaust. Its violence reportedly prompted audience walkouts at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, but also drew rave reviews for its uncompromising depiction of evil.
In a five star review, the Guardian’s Xan Brooks acknowledged the movie was a tough sit, but added, “I can state without hesitation that this is a monumental piece of work and one I’m deeply glad to have seen. I can also say that I hope to never cross its path again.”
Variety‘s Guy Lodge also praised the film, writing, “‘The Painted Bird’ is inarguably effective and immersive, its hard, unyielding gaze backed up by the muscularity of its craft.”
Marhoul spent over a decade getting the film produced. In a statement, he expressed gratitude to IFC Films for acquiring the movie. “They have demonstrated a deep, sensitive understanding of the message of the movie, which is so important in today’s volatile world,” he said. “I deeply believe the movie’s advocacy of tolerance, fellow-feeling and community must reach American audiences. IFC will make that happen.”
The film follows the journey of a young boy, entrusted by his persecuted parents to an elderly foster mother. After the woman dies, he is left on his own, wandering through the countryside, in a struggle to survive. Much of the story unfolds during the chaotic final days of World War II and, against that backdrop, the film depicts the brutality meted out by ruthless soldiers, both Russian and German. The film’s international cast includes Petr Kotlár, Udo Kier, Lech Dyblik, Jitka Čvančarová, Stellan Skarsgard, Harvey Keitel, Julian Sands, Aleksey Kravchenko, and Barry Pepper.
Arianna Bocco executive VP of acquisitions and productions at IFC Films called the film, “a brilliant cinematic achievement with a fiercely accomplished cast to match.”
In a separate statement, Lisa Schwartz, co-president of IFC Films added, “IFC Films is committed to providing thought-provoking and challenging films, and this is a prime example of maintaining this core mission and continuing our legacy for nearly 20 years now.”
IFC Films has demonstrated a talent for taking indie productions that other studios might have dismissed as too risky and helping them find audiences. Its past releases include such provocative and challenging works as Lars von Trier’s “The House That Jack Built,” Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale,” and Olivier Assayas’s “Personal Shopper.”
“The Painted Bird” is a Silver Screen production in co-production with Czech Television, Directory Films, Radio and Television Slovakia, Certicon Group, Innogy, PubRes, Monte Rosso Production, with producer Václav Marhoul and co-producers, Eduard Kučera, Milada Kučera, Igor Savychenko, Vladimír Mařík, Karel Kraus, Zuzana Mistríková, Ľubica Orechovská, Richard Kaucký, and Alexander Kushaev. The film was supported by the Czech Film Fund, Slovak Audiovisual Fund, Ukrainian State Film Agency, and Creative Europe – MEDIA.
In a joint statement, Celluloid Dreams president Hengameh Panahi and vice president Charlotte Mickie said they were delighted to work with IFC. “Their curation is extremely astute, and they have unparalleled expertise with important, provocative movies. We look forward to this new adventure and to American audiences responding to a 21st century masterpiece.”
The deal for the film was negotiated by Bocco on behalf of IFC Films. CAA Media Finance and Celluloid Dreams represented the filmmakers.