Locarno premiere took home eight awards; meanwhile Ukraine greenlights cash rebate scheme.

The Last Family

Jan P. Matuszynski’s feature debut The Last Family swept the board at this year’s Gdynia Film Festival in Poland (19-24 September) with eight awards, including the Golden Lions Grand Prix as well as the awards for Best Actor and Actress and the Audience Award.

The tragicomic story also picked up the Journalists Award, the Onetu Award for the three lead actors Aleksandra Konieczna, Andrzej Seweryn and Dawid Ogrodnik, as well as the Elle Crystal Star and the Golden Kangaroo for director Matuszynski.

Handled internationally by New Europe Film Sales and distributed theatrically in Poland by Kino Swiat, The Last Family had its world premiere in competition at last month’s Locarno Film Festival where the Leopard for Best Actor was awarded to star Andrzej Seweryn for his performance.

Tomasz Wasilewski’s Berlinale competition title United States Of Love - also with New Film Europe Sales - found particular favour with the Main Competition jury headed by veteran Polish director Filip Bajonm and featuring Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, actress Kinga Preis, and UK film and TV composer Gary Yershon.

Wasilewski was named Best Director, with other prizes given for Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Editing and Best Costume Design.

Meanwhile, this year’s Silver Lions Award went to Maciej Pieprzyca’s psychological thriller I’m A Killer, inspired by real events in Poland in the early 1970s.

Pieprzyca, who had made a documentary on the case back in 1998, also received the jury’s nod for Best Screenplay, and the film also picked up the Arthouse Cinemas Network Award.

Graphic violence

This year’s competition line-up of 16 titles included three titles which carried warnings in the festival programme that they contained graphic violence that was often too much for some audience members to bear.

Nevertheless, all three films were considered in the competition jury’s final decisions: Marcin Koszalka’s The Red Spider was presented with the Jury Special Award, while Bartosz M. Kowalski’s Playground – handled internationally by Latido – was named Best Debut (and also received the Don Quixote Award from the Polish Federation of Film Discussion Clubs).

In addition, Wojtek Smarzowski – no stranger to controversy in his previous films – saw four awards go to his latest film Hatred, which is set during the Second World War in a village inhabited by Ukrainians, Poles and Jews as a wave of ethnic cleansing sweeps over the region.

The epic period piece received the honours for Best Cinematography, Best Acting Debut, and Best Makeup from the Main Competition jury as well as the prize given by the Polish Film Festivals and Reviews Abroad.

Michal Oleszczyk’s third outing as the artistic director of the Polish cinema’s annual showcase also saw Andrzej Wajda in Gdynia for a special screening of his latest feature film Afterimage which had its world premiere in Toronto earlier in the month.

The veteran filmmaker – who turned 90 last March – was treated to an emotional reception before the screening of Afterimage with a number of actors and actresses from his past films coming on stage to congratulate him on his life’s achievement and share humorous anecdotes about working with the maestro.

During the festival’s closing ceremony, Wajda then received a special award from the Polish Filmmakers Association on the occasion of its 50th anniversary for his latest film.


Ukraine government greenlights cash rebate

As the Polish Film Institute is working on ideas for an incentive scheme to make Poland more attractive as a location for foreign producers, neighbouring Ukraine has now received the greenlight for a cash rebate scheme as part of the new Film law passed by the national government.

As reported by Screen during the Odessa Film Festival in July, the national deputies agreed to the implementation of a cash rebate system which will refund up to 25% of the money spent by foreign or Ukrainian producers for the production of films and TV series shot in Ukraine. In addition, the state will refund 10% of the costs spent on the territory of Ukraine that can be qualified as pay to the cast and crew who are not residents of Ukraine and do not pay personal income tax there.

Commenting on the new opportunities being opened up for the Ukrainian film industry with the introduction of the cash rebate scheme, Sergey Sozanovsky, CEO and co-founder of the FILM.UA Group, noted that the high level of production quality achieved working for many years with Russian colleagues “gives us confidence that our product is internationally competitive and interesting outside of our country.”

“Moreover, we can reassure everyone that the prices for content production in Ukraine will be a shockingly pleasant surprise for every foreign producer,” he added. “We are now really the cheapest place in Europe to shoot in with the lowest production service prices, at the same time possessing highly qualified and skilful personnel and a great variety of unique locations.”

He predicted that the launching of the cash rebate system would „really cause a boost of the local production service industry in the coming years.”

Putin for Poland

Russian sales outfit Antipode Sales and Distribution has sold all rights for Russian filmmaker Kirill Nenashev’s Putin Forever? to the Polish distributor Aurora.

The independent production will have its international premiere in the Documentary Competition at next month’s Warsaw Film Festival.

Baltic spotlight

Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia will be a regional focus along with France at the next edition of When East Meets West (WEMW) in Trieste next January.

Speaking to Screen during the Torino Lab workshops in Gdynia last week, WEMW’s project manager Alessandro Gropplero said that this would be the first time that the co-production forum would be having a double East and West focus.

Previous years had seen the spotlight placed on the Scandinavian countries, Latin America, and the Benelux and the UK

Gropplero added that the 20 projects selected for the pitching forum will also be competing for two new prizes to be launched at the 2017 edition: the CNC Development Award, worth $5,600 (€5,000) for the best project, and the EWA – Europe Women’s Audiovisual Award for the best female director.

European Film Challenge from the Baltics

Lithuania’s Kino Pasaka, Kino Bize and distributor A-One Films have joined forces with support from the European Union’s Creative Europe – MEDIA sub-programme to launch the European Film Challenge.

The new venture is a competition aiming to get cinema lovers in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to share their passion for European cinema – with a prize for the winner of an all-expenses-paid trip to next year’s Berlinale.

To complete the Challenge, entrants must watch 10 European movies before the contest closes on December 15, 2016. Each time they watch a film, they can log into europeanfilmchallenge.eu to share the experience with friends on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #europeanfilmchallenge.

“The great thing about this project is that everybody in the film industry can benefit,” says Greta Akcijonaite of Kino pasaka, one of the project’s founders. “Producers, distributors, cinemas, online streaming platforms, TV channels… anyone can use it to promote their product. We’re encouraging them to use our logo and say ‘This film is eligible for #europeanfilmchallenge’ in their posters, social posts and press releases.”

The venture has already established partnerships with the forthcoming Riga International Film Festival, Black Nights Film Festival, and Scanorama.