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  • Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland

     

  • NEWS

  • 25 August 2017

    From September 7 through September 17, 2017 Toronto will be hosting the most important film festival in North America. Every year the Toronto International Film Festival presents the newest trends in cinema from around the world. This year, Poland is represented by seven films.

    Pomiędzy słowami (Beyond Words) will have its world premiere in TIFF's Contemporary World Cinema section.  The movie has been written and directed by Urszula Antoniak, it tells the story about a Polish born, Berlin based lawyer who’s working on refugee cases and is unexpectedly reunited with his long-lost father. "On Thursday, young German career-oriented lawyer Michael declines taking on board the case of a young African refugee. He want to know why his boss and friend Franz chose him as the one to hand this case to. On Friday, Polish immigrant Michael welcomes his father Stanisław. It is their first meeting. Michael had been raised by his mother in Poland believing his father was deceased. Now Michael, a man who achieved everything in life through his own hard work, has one weekend to get to know his maker — a strange, tired, and hardly iconic father figure. This weekend, which was meant to close the past, opened the doors on the trauma of being unloved. After Stanisław departs on Monday, Michael starts seeing his life in Berlin in a different light. He is tolerated here. But does he feel loved?" The film was written and directed by Urszula Antoniak, lensed by Dutch cinematographer Lennert Hillege, and made as a co-production between Poland and the Netherlands. Pomiędzy słowami (Beyond Words) features performances by Jakub Gierszał and Andrzej Chyra.

     

    Rodzina na sprzedaż (A Sort of Family), an international co-production directed by Diego Lerman, lensed by Wojciech Staroń and co-financed by the Polish Film Institute, will also screen in the Contemporary World Cinema section of TIFF. 38-year-old Malena is a middle class doctor living in Buenos Aires. She has recently lost a child. After this traumatic experience, she sets off on a journey to adopt a newborn baby from an impoverished family in northern Argentina. During her journey, Malena begins to hesitate and is torn by moral dilemmas. She wonders how far she might go to create the family she has been dreaming of.

     

    The Contemporary World Cinema section lineup also features W cieniu drzewa (Under the Tree / Undir Trenu), a film directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, made as a co-production between Iceland, Denmark and Poland co-financed by the Polish Film Institute.

    This comedy drama about family life focuses on various aspects of a shared existence. Accused of betrayal, the film's main protagonist Atli is thrown out of his home and forced to move in with his parents. His ex-fiancee and the mother of his child cuts him off completely and makes it impossible for him to see his four-year-old daughter. At the same time, an old conflict between Atli's parents and their neighbours resurfaces and escalates daily. The dispute is over a beautiful old tree that grows in Atli's parents' backyard and casts a shadow over the neighbours' terrace. The neighbours demand that the tree be cut down, but Atli's parents won't hear of it. Atli is slowly sucked into this dispute, while his own problems reach new dimensions. The film was lensed by Polish cinematographer Monika Lenczewska.

     

    The Captain - the prestigious Special Presentations section, focusing on the latest accomplishments in world cinema, will feature Kapitan (Der Hauptmann), directed by Robert Schwentke. The film was made as a German-French-Polish co-production. The Toronto screening will mark its world premiere. On the Polish side, the film was produced by Opus Film. Kapitan (Der Hauptmann) is the story of a German army deserter who, in the last days of April 1945, claims to be an army officer and Hitler's special envoy. Taking advantage of the chaos, he organises a squad of similar free-wheelers and deserters. The project was first developed within the framework of the Polish-German Co-Development Fund, and then co-financed by the Polish Film Institute.

     

    Yeti, a short experimental film by Wojciech Bąkowski will screen in the festival's Wavelengths section, focusing on a new look at cinema and visual arts. This eight-minute short by Polish artist Wojciech Bąkowski combines lo-fi video footage and computer animation. Bąkowski's films have previously screened at the Toronto IFF in 2013 (Suchy Pion / Dry Standpipe) and 2015 (Analiza wzruszeń i rozdrażnień / Analysis of Emotions and Vexations), also in the festival's Wavelengths section. Polish artist Wojciech Bąkowski abandons his refined pencil drawings for a mixture of lo-fi video and computer animation. Images of phones, loafers, and surveillance devices hover and float, yet despite the means of circulation and communication, the artist's body remains near-immobile.

     

    Scaffolding  Seventeen-year-old Asher (Asher Lax) is a young man on the brink of some important decisions. He's about to do exams to graduate high school, an accomplishment even more worthy of praise as his significant behavioural issues — anger and lack of impulse control — have mandated attendance in a special-needs stream. His father, Milo (compellingly played by Yaacov Cohen), trivializes formal education and expects Asher to ultimately take over his scaffolding company.

    Asher's dedication to his father is shaken as the boy becomes increasingly intrigued by the ideas of his literature teacher in school, a thoughtful, gentle man named Rami. The teacher uses literature to provoke the students into expressing their feelings, and everyone in the class develops a fierce affection for Rami. When a sudden tragedy separates Asher from his beloved mentor, he experiences a major crisis that contrasts the two dominant male figures in his life. Asher must decide what sort of man he will become.

    Shot in the small city of Herzliya just north of Tel Aviv, this feature from director Matan Yair — himself a teacher who based the film on his own years of experience — conveys with piercing insight the complex challenges facing this young man. But it is Asher Lax as Asher who brings a brisk, often explosive vitality to the screen, insisting we engage with his remarkable spirit.

     

    Miracle. The first film from Lithuania to play the Festival in over 15 years, Egle Vertelyte's aptly named feature debut Miracle is a delightfully deadpan tragicomedy that announces the arrival of a bright new talent.

    Middle-aged Irena lives a dreary life in a small, somnambulant Lithuanian town. Despised by her co-workers at the struggling post-Soviet pig farm she manages, childless Irena is also stuck toiling for her bumbling, alcoholic husband. She isn't a hit with the townspeople either, who resent the seemingly preferential treatment she received from the local housing authority.  Everything changes with the arrival of a boisterous American-Lithuanian stranger intent on buying the farm while pledging to make Lithuania great again. Despite arousing everyone's suspicions, Bernardas (Vyto Ruginis) brings the whole town to life, even timid, introverted Irena, who soon falls under his charismatic sway. Will this newfound vitality be the town's — and Irena's — saving grace... or its undoing?  Miracle recalls the cinema of Aki Kaurismäki through its style and tone, and in Egle Mikulionyte's lovably despondent lead performance as Irena, which channels Kaurismäki's muse Kati Outinen.  Similarly, Bernardas' guffawing, blustering similarity to Donald Trump adds to the film's humour. Well-crafted and carried on the wings of bittersweet melancholy by Emil Christov's cinematography (The Color of the Chameleon, TIFF '12), Vertelyte's film sticks close to themes of belonging, identity, and breaking away from history's determinist providence. Miracle is a cinematic wonder of simplicity that charms both heart and spirit.

     

    The film will not be the only Polish accents at the festival.  Małgorzata Szumowska, along with Chen Kaige and Wim Wenders, will be in the jury of the Platform competition. The Platform section features 12 films from around the world. According to festival director Piers Handling, this section is aimed at showcasing the creative visions of directors who are constantly expanding the frontiers of art and serve as examples of a bold, dynamic and unique voice in contemporary cinema." In 2015, one of the Platform jury members was Agnieszka Holland.

    For more info visit:  Toronto International Film Festival: www.tiff.net/tiff, Polish Film Institute: http://en.pisf.pl/, http://bit.ly/2ximKRD

     

    Photo: Beyond Words) Photo by Olaf Tryzna, A Sort of Family Photo by Mateusz Czuchnowski, Under the Tree. Photo courtesy of Madants, Małgorzata Szumowska. Photo by Jacek Poremba.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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