67th Berlinale. Agnieszka Holland's Pokot (Spoor) Wins Silver Bear!

At the closing ceremony of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival Pokot (Spoor) by Agnieszka Holland, co-financed by the Polish Film Institute received the Silver Bear – Alfred Bauer Prize –  for a feature film that opens new perspectives.

Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik with the Silver Bear at the 67th Berlinale. Photo by Bartosz Sadowski

Jury members director Paul Verhoeven (head of the jury), film producer Dora Bouchoucha Fourati, sculptor Olafur Eliasson, actresses Maggie Gyllenhaal and Julia Jentsch, actor Diego Luna, and screenwriter Wang Quan’an awarded the Silver Bear – Alfred Bauer Prize for a feature film that opens new perspectives to Pokot (Spoor) by Agnieszka Holland.

Agnieszka Holland received Alfred Bauer Prize with her daughter Kasia Adamik, who co-created the film.

“I did’t direct this film by myself, alone. If I’m doing the film which can be prized with the prize like that is beacuse I have very wonderful collaboartor and co-director, Kasia Adamik. (…) I would like to thank also producers, the crew and Agnieszka Mandat who animated this film and made it important to the audience. […] We are living in very difficult times right now, we need the new perspective, we need the movies which are brave, important and which are touching the subjects important to our planet” said Agnieszka Holland.

Crystal Bear for Rafael Kapeliński

Butterfly Kisses, press materials 

At the 67th Berlinale Polish director Rafael Kapeliński received the Crystal Bear for the film Butterfly Kisses, screened in Generation Kplus section.

A Challenging Film

The crew of Pokot (Spoor) with the Silver Bear at the 67th Berlinale. Photo by Bartosz Sadowski

“This film was a challenge from the beginning; it was difficult to define whether it is a psychological drama, black comedy, thriller, or fairy tale. All these genres are combined. That was a challenge for me […]. I thought about making a film that escapes the genre structure; a film with a very distinct main protagonist,” she said Agnieszka Holland at the press conference.

“This sensibility that opens us to the rights of the vulnerable, to our ‘lesser brothers,’ is in direct conflict, a conflict that has now become political, with the mentality of those who try to subjugate the weaker — be it nature, animals, women […]. We worked on this film for four years, and in this time the world has changed, not necessarily for the better. We weren’t explicitly referring to the political context, but most of all we were thinking of opening up our imagination and sensibility. Hunting serves as a metaphor,” said Agnieszka Holland.

The cast & crew of Pokot (Spoor) before the world premiere at Berlinale. Photo by Marcin Oliva Soto

Agnieszka Holland. Photo by Marcin Oliva Soto

“I chose hunting as the theme of this novel because I found it spectacular. But I deeply believe that I could have just as easily addressed commercial meat farming, or any issues that are handled behind closed doors, far from the spotlight […]. This book was written 8-9 years ago, and during the making of the film we all felt that reality was writing a type of commentary on it. The subject of hunting became a current event in Polish media. We were surprised to see how reality is commenting on the making of this film and adding new interpretations,” said Olga Tokarczuk.

“For me it is important that my character stayed true to her beliefs, regardless of the circumstances. Nothing could stop her when she believed something was the right thing to do; that’s what I found most appealing about her,” said lead actress Agnieszka Mandat.

“Agnieszka Holland took care to make sure that we are very real in depicting our protagonists, represent our own niche,” said Jakub Gierszał. “This is mainly a story about emotions. Animals in this film feel fear, but so does my protagonist — and this is where his aggression and anger stems from. My character only feels strong when he is part of a group; that’s how animals feel, too. We have to make sure to not live in fear, as it has become a currency even in politics,” said Borys Szyc.

Pokot (Spoor)

The main character in Agnieszka Holland’s latest film is Janina Duszejko, a retired engineer living in the Sudeten mountains. She’s also a vegetarian and an astrologist. One snowy winter night, she stumbles on the dead body of her neighbour. The man, a poacher, died a mysterious death. The only visible tracks around his house are roe deer hooves.

International Co-Production Supported by the Polish Film Institute

The script was written by Agnieszka Holland and Olga Tokarczuk, based on Olga Tokarczuk’s bestselling novel “Drive Your Plough over the Bones of the Dead”, published in 2009. The film was lensed by Jolanta Dylewska and scored by Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz. Filming took place in a variety of locations, including Międzygórze, Bystrzyce, Nowa Ruda, and Berlin.

The film features performances by Agnieszka Mandat, Wiktor Zborowski, Jakub Gierszał, Borys Szyc, Andrzej Grabowski, Tomasz Kot, Katarzyna Herman, Patricia Volny, Miroslav Krobot, Marcin Bosak, and Andrzej Konopka.

Pokot (Spoor) was made as a co-production between Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Sweden. The film’s producer is Studio Filmowe TOR, supported by funds from the European Union’s Media programme, and the Polish-German Co-Development Fund for developing feature film projects. The film’s co-producers include Heimatfilm (Germany), Nutprodukce (Czech Republic), Nutprodukcia (Slovakia), and Chimney (Sweden). Polish co-producers include Odra-Film, the National Audiovisual Institute, HBO, and Agora. The film was co-financed by the Polish Film Institute and received financing from Eurimages.

Pokot (Spoor) Reviews

Deborah Young of “The Hollywood Reporter” compares Janina Duszejko to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, amateur detective, who is “a vegetarian hippy and animal rights activist living in Fargo.” In her review, Young notes that the antagonism between the passionate Duszejko and the obtuse monsters that surround her keeps the tension high as the murders accumulate. Young also notes that “full of spectacular nature shots of deer and boar scampering through snowy virgin forests, the film could find art house audiences on the sheer beauty of its production. Animal rights groups might well embrace it as a landmark.”

Pokot (Spoor) is arguably the most beautiful film in this year’s Main Competition. Finally we have a film with an interesting narrative, where the focus lies not only on shooting, but also on a fascinating soundtrack,” writes Bianca Friedman for Italian website Intrattenimento, noting that “only the stable hand of an experienced director could do so well with the intricacies of the story, giving justice to the innocent beings.”

Pokot (Spoor) is eclectic, yet satisfying,” writes Sarah Ward in her review for Screen magazine. “Spoor’s narrative defies easy categorisation but invites considerable contemplation.” Ward also notes how well Agnieszka Mandat’s performance was received in Berlin, which in her opinion should help drive the intriguing Spoor into wider festival play around the world.

Alex Billington of Firstshowing praises the cinematography by Jolanta Dylewska. In his piece, he notes that thanks to the cinematography, “along with an incredibly unique score from Antoni Lazarkiewicz, and exceptional lead performance by Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka, this won’t be a film you forget” and that audiences will share his own enthusiasm and love for the film. “There’s definitely a cathartic feeling to this film, but it never overindulges on that feeling, and instead encourages the audience to viscerally connect with her message. […] An exciting film that animal lovers will instantly embrace,” writes Billington.

“Agnieszka Holland’s Pokot (Spoor) is a multi-dimensional and exciting film,” writes Barbara Hollender in her review for Rzeczpospolita. “This film is not easy to judge; it does not conform to schematic formulae. In terms of style, this is an unusual film in Agnieszka Holland’s oeuvre. The director, who usually narrates in a very clear and concise manner, this time allowed herself to make a hybrid of genres […]. Agnieszka Holland and Olga Tokarczuk provoke, take audiences out of their comfort zone. Critics came out of the Berlin screening without ready-made labels […]. Perhaps it is a sign of the times. What comes to the front are not ready answers, but questions.”

“The winter landscape of the film looks fantastic, bringing Pokot (Spoor) into the classic thriller formula. The eerie wind and crunching snow amplify the feeling of dread, while Duszejko’s private investigation, in itself a little absurd, fits this bizarre, almost fable-like structure of the film. This feeling of unease is amplified by the austere score by Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz and beautiful cinematography by Jolanta Dylewska,” writes Małgorzata Steciak in her Berlinale article for Onet.

More reviews at www.pisf.pl.

Polish Theatrical Release on February 24, 2017

Agnieszka Holland’s Pokot (Spoor) will be released theatrically in Poland on February 24, 2017. Distribution is handled by Next Film.