New works in progress event in Wroclaw attracts more than 180 industry attendees.

Ari Folman’s The Congress is aiming for a premiere in Cannes next year and Andrzej Wajda’s biopic of Lech Walesa has been described as “the most difficult film“ in the veteran director’s 55-year career, industry participants heard at the first edition of the Polish Days held during Wroclaw’s New Horizons International Film Festival.

Speaking at the presentation of eight works in progress, The Congress’ Polish co-producer Ewa Puszczynska of Lodz-based Opus Film said that the live action sequences for Folman’s film, based on Stanislaw Lem’s novel The Futurological Congress, had been completed in Los Angeles, Berlin and Cologne last January.

“We are now working on the special effects as well as the classic 2D animation at Orange Studios in Bialystok,” she said. “A reason why we decided to present this film in Wroclaw was to show that big international co-productions can also be made in Poland.”

“Hopefully, we will manage to finish the film in time for Cannes next year. This is our aim, we’re working very hard on this,” Puszczynska added. (Folman’s Waltz With Bashir played at Cannes in 2008.)

Turning to Walesa, producer Jan Kwiecinski of Akson Studio, which had also produced Wajda’s previous features Katyn and Sweet Rush, explained: “there is no-one in Poland who doesn’t have an opinion about Walesa, his life, his adventures and his decisions, his persona arousing extreme emotions in our country from pure love to pure hate.“

”We wanted to make a film about his fight as an international hero, analyse the creation of a leader and show an amazing moment in the history of Poland. But, most of all, we wanted to show the story of a fascinating and complex human being who stands  behind the story.“

“As with our previous film Katyn, we want to approach, move and touch not only a Polish audience, but also an international one,“ Akson Studio’s founder and CEO Michal Kwiecinski said. “In one month, we will have the first cut and will then show it to a young audience because the film is aimed at the young generation who don’t know about these events. We are also inviting a Warner Bros executive to come to Poland and tell us whether or not he understands the film.”

Janusz Glowacki’s screenplay has Robert Wieckiewicz (In Darkness) playing Walesa [pictured in character], with his wife Donuta portrayed by Agnieszka Grochowska (Beyond The Steppes). They will be the only historical figures in the film, and other real-life people involved in those events will only appear in documentary footage incorporated into the film.

The €4.6m production of Walesa, which has been co-produced by the phone mobile company Orange, Canal +, the National Centre for Culture and the Polish Film Institute, will be released in Poland by ITI Cinema. A festival premiere is expected early in 2013, although an international sales agent has yet to be secured.

The idea of the Polish Days had been mooted by New Horizons festival director Roman Gutek two years ago. While the Polish short films competition was retained this year, the feature films competition was replaced by the Polish Days open only to invited national and international guests.

The festival had become a victim of its own success since, in past years, visiting festival programmers and sales agents had been frustrated at finding the new Polish films sold out in just a matter of seconds after online booking opened and then had to resort to visiting the video library instead.

This year, Screen 4 in the Helios multiplex was dedicated to the Polish Days screenings and included presentations of Leszek David’s drama You Are God about the legendary Polish hip hop group Paktofonika, Krzysztof Lukaszewicz’s second feature Viva Bel@rus! as well as Maciej Pieprzyca’s drama The Will To Live and Kristoffer Rus’ short black comedy The Big Leap in the works in progress section. New feature projects were pitched by such filmmakers as Magnus von Horn (The Here After), Bartek Konopka (The Mute) and Andrzej Zulawski (Dark Matter).

This first edition of the Polish Days attracted over 180 participants, including festival representatives from Berlin, Cannes, Hamburg, Cottbus, Wiesbaden, Gothenburg, Hong Kong, Rotterdam and Cluj, and sales companies such as HanWay Films, Intramovies, MK2 and Wide Management, and distributors ranging from Neue Visionen Filmverleih through Soda Pictures to Filmladen Distribution.