Before the Oscars: Press Conference by the Creators of Rabbit a la Berlin
Photo by Marcin Kułakowski, Polish Film Institute
Just before leaving for Los Angeles, the creators of Rabbit a la Berlin (Królik po berlińsku) held a press conference at Warsaw’s Kultura cinema. The film was presented by director Bartek Konopka, editor Mateusz Romaszkan, original score composer Maciej Cieślak, head of post-production Grzegorz Korczak, assistant production manager Alicja Kizińska, author of commentary Michał Ogórek, and Maciej Skalski from MS Films, which produced the film.
The filmmakers and present journalists were welcomed by Agnieszka Odorowicz, General Director of the Polish Film Institute. “I would like to congratulate all of you. It is a great success and a wonderful film that keeps up the greatest traditions of the Polish school of documentary film-making, which continues to amaze people around the world. The film has been screened at over 50 film festivals. Today, I would particularly like to congratulate the director – not only on his Oscar nomination, but also because his baby daughter was born last night. When Anna Wydra came to us a few months ago with the idea that this particular film should be considered for Oscar promotion, we were thrilled on one hand, but on the other (I must admit that now) we felt it was a very difficult task. It’s a creative documentary, different from the other nominees. We agreed to finance the promotional campaign and we are delighted with the nomination. We are happy and continue to cross our fingers, hoping the film wins. Congratulations are in order; this film saw an incredible effort of the producers and creators in terms of organization and promotion. This is our third nomination in a short period of time (only four years), and, hopefully, will bring our second Oscar”, said Agnieszka Odorowicz.
Bartek Konopka thanked for the support received from the Polish Film Institute. He said this was not an American-style documentary, which was why he was at first rather surprised how well it was doing at international festivals. He pointed out that the most difficult stage of promoting the film in the United States actually began after the Academy Award nominations were announced.
“In previous years, the vote was made by a 30-member committee of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whereas today it is an open battle – each film has to be shown to as many Academy members as possible, to maximize the number of voters. We were able to convince Ronni Chasen, one of the most experienced publicity agents in the field, to help us promote Rabbit a la Berlin. She previously handled such acclaimed films as Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, Amelie from Montmartre, and Aviator. We met her thanks to Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. She handled his publicity in the past and played a part in his winning an Academy Award. She liked our film and wanted to help us; we are happy that she is handling the US campaign. Anna Wydra has been in the United States for the past week, holding meetings and giving press interviews. The feedback that we’re getting from her and from press articles or television news shows that our film, when properly advertised, was welcomed with interest”, said Konopka.
Anna Wydra took part in a prestigious luncheon held for the 120 Academy Award nominees in Beverly Hills on February 15. She also appeared on a show of the ABC network. Sometime next week, Konopka and Wydra will also appear on ABC’s morning show Good Morning America.
Journalists wanted to know how a film with such a distinctly European subject matter grabbed the attention of the Americans. Bartek Konopka admitted it surprised him. “The film had previously received an award at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto. This was proof that the North American audience and film industry enjoy the film and understand it, seeing it as a universal story about freedom and what it feels like to regain it after years of foreign dependence. We saw it as a strictly European story, focusing on our issues. Because it is not a lecture in history (no names or dates are mentioned in the film), we thought that you really need to know the context to fully understand it”, he said.
During the press conference, Bartek Konopka was presented with the Silver Eye Award that he won at the 13th International Documentary Film Festival in Jihlava.
The award was presented by Andrea Prenghyová, director of the Institute of Documentary Film in the Czech Republic. Apart from the Jihlava festival, the Institute of Documentary Film organizes the “Ex Oriente” workshops for documentary filmmakers from Eastern and Central Europe, previously attended by Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra. At the press conference, Konopka encouraged young documentary filmmakers to participate in these workshops and recommended their pitching sessions, as they are attended by representatives of well-funded television organizations from around Europe, ready to commission a film. “It was there that we found our German partners, and that was the first step. I have only the fondest memories of those meetings. Everyone involved in this event is truly wonderful”, said Konopka.
Michał Ogórek, author of the commentary heard in the film, mentioned that in his opinion the film is excellent at what Poles do best: talk about misfortune. “We are here to tell the world about its misfortune. It is interesting that the Germans did not make such a film – they don’t want to dabble in this anymore. That’s when we come in and say: ‘Oh no, such a beautiful misfortune cannot go to waste! We have to make use of it, so we will tell you your story’. The key here is that our own misfortune is not enough for us; we are now starting to tell the world about its misfortune. That is certainly a sign of progress”.
Translated by Karolina Kołtun