Paris-based Petit Film has boarded “Hot Spot” by Polish director Agnieszka Smoczyńska.
The story, set in the near future, follows a disillusioned private eye Djonny, called to investigate a murder at a refugee camp. But he becomes increasingly unstable as he confronts a cyber witch who gradually takes control of his life.
Smoczyńska’s previous film, Cannes premiere “The Silent Twins” – based on the lives of June and Jennifer Gibbons – earned Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance a BIFA [British Independent Film Award] for Best Joint Lead Performance.
“Agnieszka’s work does not derive from, or resemble, any existing films. That’s the first and foremost reason why I would not miss the chance to participate in one of them,” says producer Jean des Forêts, also behind Julia Ducournau’s “Raw” and Lucile Hadžihalilović’s English-language debut “Earwig.”
“Last year the opportunity arose and I seized it immediately. The project brings together a nice band of people with a spirit of craftsmanship, bolstering my motivation to go out and find more partners to help the film come to life.”
As previously announced, Polish outfit Madants is already on board, at Berlinale’s EFM with a slew of new projects, including “Ultima Thule,” Goran Stolevski’s “Housekeeping for Beginners” or “Joika” by James Napier Robertson. As well as Greece’s Faliro House, with New Europe Film Sales handling sales.
“Hot Spot” will also reunite Smoczyńska with screenwriter Robert Bolesto, her collaborator on feature debut “The Lure” – described by Variety as ‘deeply dippy story of vampire mermaid sisters wreaking havoc above water’ – and “The Kindler and the Virgin,” included in the anthology horror film “The Field Guide to Evil.”
“To me, ‘Hot Spot’ is a story where the main feeling is fear, just like in a horror movie. And in today’s world,” he says.
Smoczyńska describes the new project as a “personal blend of horror, science fiction and anti-detective story,” ready to mix genres again.
“It’s not an obstacle anymore: it’s just another challenge. When I was making ‘The Lure,’ the situation was very different. Now, when I am working on something, I usually start with one genre. Then, once I start following the characters, everything gets more complicated.”
The film, set to be shot in multiple languages, including Polish and French, will mark another international collaboration for the director, following 2018 drama “Fugue” (Poland, Czech Republic and Sweden) and especially “The Silent Twins,” co-production between Poland, UK and the US.
“I like this tendency very much. It mirrors our diverse, modern world, which – just like the film industry – is luckily no longer homogeneous. It makes things more complicated sometimes, but it also enriches our projects. And us, personally. I just like this polyphony, I guess,” she observes.
“When you make your English-language debut, it’s as if you were starting all over again. It’s another test for you as a director. [‘The Silent Twins’] was an important step, that’s for sure, but I just want to keep on doing my own thing.”
In her new film, Smoczyńska is looking forward to embracing “all these archetypes and images, deeply encoded in our collective subconscious,” she says.
“Everyone can relate to them, because they are so universal. With their help, we can also say something about our modern reality. This witch – which was actually Robert’s idea – felt like a very appealing character to me. It’s all about this encounter with the unknown.”
She adds: “Arthur C. Clarke used to say that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ That’s also what this film is about.”
Smoczyńska is represented by Christina Bazdekis (UTA), Donata Rojewska (High Spot) and Joanne Roberts Wiles (Black Bear Management).