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Markovics, Serbezija join The Porcupine

EXCLUSIVE: Srdjan Dragojevic adapts Julian Barnes novel.

Karl Markovics [pictured] (The Counterfeiters) and Rade Serbedzija (Eyes Wide Shut) have joined the cast of Srdjan Dragojevic’s adaptation of Julian Barnes’ novel The Porcupine.

Markovics will play the lead role of Peter Solinksky and Serbedzija will play the titular Porcupine, the ex-communist dictator Stoyo Petkanov.

Set in a post-communist fictional country, The Porcupine is a political thriller about the trial of a former communist leader who mounts a strong defense.

The film is expected to shoot in February 2014.

Dragojevic last directed box-office hit and Berlinale prizewinner The Parade.

Dragojevic said: “Barnes’ The Porcupine examines a recent phenomenon in Eastern Europe: nostalgia for socialism…The script treats this nostalgia as a screen, a strategy to cover up the twin traumas shared by all East European societies: the trauma of socialism and the trauma of transition. Add to this the failure of capitalism since Barnes wrote the book – and we have a very contemporary tale of two systems.”

It marks the first Barnes film adaptation since Metroland in 1997.

The novel has been adapted by Dragojevic and will be produced by Delirium’s Biljana Prvanovic and Film and Music Entertainment’s Mike Downey and Sam Taylor.

The film’s backers include Germany’s Departures Film and MDM, Bulgaria’s Camera Ltd and Bulgarian State Fund, Croatia’s Drugi Plan and Croatian Audiovisual Centre, Macedona’s Sektor Film, Serbia’s Intermedia and Serbian Film Centre and Romania’s Elefant Films. There are applications being made for more funding from Poland’s PISF via ZaiR, the Ukraine Film Fund via Cry Cinema and the UK’s BFI.

“Until recently, people from beyond the Iron Curtain seemed to have a spiritual advantage over us in the West.” said F&ME’s Mike Downey. “You travelled to Russia and Eastern Europe and had to feel it - artists and writers living for truth and art, the certainty of a world in which people of sensibility knew who their enemy was and opposed and despised that enemy.  Now with the death of Capitalsm -  East and West, we’re all together in a whited-out, make-a-buck world. This is the world that The Porcupine portrays and it has a powerful contemporary resonance for a novel written 20 years ago.”

Barnes added: “I’m a child of the Cold War. At school and university I studied Russian. In 1965 I went on a big trip with friends – driving from England through Germany and Poland to Russia, up to Leningrad, down to Kiev and Odessa, into Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and home. I visited Romania again in 1979 – indeed, proposed to my wife there. I’ve been to Bulgaria twice, once just before Communism collapsed, once as it did so. So I know something of the background, and when writing The Porcupine I was helped by Bulgarian friends with certain details.

“I view the fall of Communism as a largely joyous event in itself, though I view much of what followed – the triumphalism of the West, the weakening of the Left’s good, true ideas (as opposed to its totalitarian tendencies), the brutal bullying of the spreading capitalist system – with dismay.”

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