Polish Films at 42nd Toronto IFF

Several films co-financed by the Polish Film Institute will screen at the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

World Premiere of New Film by Urszula Antoniak

Jakub Gierszał in Pomiędzy słowami (Beyond Words). Photo by Olaf Tryzna

“On Thursday, young German career-oriented lawyer Michael declines taking on board the case of a young African refugee. He want to know why his boss and friend Franz chose him as the one to hand this case to. On Friday, Polish immigrant Michael welcomes his father Stanisław. It is their first meeting. Michael had been raised by his mother in Poland believing his father was deceased. Now Michael, a man who achieved everything in life through his own hard work, has one weekend to get to know his maker — a strange, tired, and hardly iconic father figure. This weekend, which was meant to close the past, opened the doors on the trauma of being unloved. After Stanisław departs on Monday, Michael starts seeing his life in Berlin in a different light. He is tolerated here. But does he feel loved?”

Pomiędzy słowami (Beyond Words) will have its world premiere in Toronto IFF’s Contemporary World Cinema section.

The film was written and directed by Urszula Antoniak, lensed by Dutch cinematographer Lennert Hillege, and made as a co-production between Poland and the Netherlands. Pomiędzy słowami (Beyond Words) features performances by Jakub Gierszał and Andrzej Chyra. The film’s producer on the Polish side is Opus Film, and its Dutch producer is Family Affair Films. World sales are handled by Global Screen. The film will have its Polish premiere screening in Main Competition at the 42nd Polish Film Festival in Gdynia.

Urszula Antoniak at the 42nd TIFF. Photo by Marzena Cieślik, Polish Film Institute. 

Screening Dates

  • 8.09,  9:45 Scotia 10, 13.09, 9:15 Scotia 8 (press & industry screenings)
  • 9.09, 19:00 Scotia 14
  • 11.09, 19:00 Scotia 8
  • 17.09, 18:30 Scotia 10

Co-Productions Co-Financed by the Polish Film Institute Screening in Toronto

Rodzina na sprzedaż (A Sort of Family), an international co-production directed by Diego Lerman, lensed by Wojciech Staroń and co-financed by the Polish Film Institute, will also screen in the Contemporary World Cinema section of TIFF.

38-year-old Malena is a middle class doctor living in Buenos Aires. She has recently lost a child. After this traumatic experience, she sets off on a journey to adopt a newborn baby from an impoverished family in northern Argentina. During her journey, Malena begins to hesitate and is torn by moral dilemmas. She wonders how far she might go to create the family she has been dreaming of.

Rodzina na sprzedaż (A Sort of Family). Photo by Mateusz Czuchnowski

Rodzina na sprzedaż (original title: Una Especie De Familia, English title: A Sort of Family) was made as a co-production between Poland, Argentina and Brazil. The film’s Polish producer is Staron-Film. This marks the second collaboration between Staron-Film and Diego Lerman. The script for the film, similarly to the script for their previous collaboration Refugiado, was written by Lerman in collaboration with María Meira.

Screening Dates

  • 8.09,  9:00 Scotia 3
  • 9.09, 9:15 Scotia 11
  • 10.09, 11:30 TBLB 3 (TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema)
  • 14.09, 16:00 Scotia 4, 19:00 Scotia 8 (press & industry screening)

W cieniu drzewa (Under the Tree)

W cieniu drzewa (Under the Tree). Photo courtesy of Madants

The Contemporary World Cinema section lineup also features W cieniu drzewa (Under the Tree / Undir Trenu), a film directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, made as a co-production between Iceland, Denmark and Poland co-financed by the Polish Film Institute.

This comedy drama about family life focuses on various aspects of a shared existence. Accused of betrayal, the film’s main protagonist Atli is thrown out of his home and forced to move in with his parents. His ex-fiancee and the mother of his child cuts him off completely and makes it impossible for him to see his four-year-old daughter. At the same time, an old conflict between Atli’s parents and their neighbours resurfaces and escalates daily. The dispute is over a beautiful old tree that grows in Atli’s parents’ backyard and casts a shadow over the neighbours’ terrace. The neighbours demand that the tree be cut down, but Atli’s parents won’t hear of it. Atli is slowly sucked into this dispute, while his own problems reach new dimensions.

The film was lensed by Polish cinematographer Monika Lenczewska.

Under the Tree was produced by Netop Films (Iceland) and co-produced by Madants (Klaudia Śmieja, Beata Rzeźniczek – Poland), Profile Pictures (Denmark), and One Two Films (Germany). The film was co-financed by the Icelandic Film Center, Eurimages, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, the Polish Film Institute, DiFactory, the Danish Film Institute, and ZDF/ARTE. World sales are handled by New Europe Film Sales.

Screening Dates

  • 10.09, 15:30 Scotia 7 (press & industry screening)
  • 11.09, 21:45 Scotia 4
  • 13.09, 18:45 Scotia 14
  • 16.09, 21:30 Scotia 3

Kapitan (Der Hauptmann) in Special Presentations

Kapitan (Der Hauptmann)

The prestigious Special Presentations section, focusing on the latest accomplishments in world cinema, will feature Kapitan (Der Hauptmann), directed by Robert Schwentke. The film was made as a German-French-Polish co-production. The Toronto screening will mark its world premiere. On the Polish side, the film was produced by Opus Film.

Kapitan (Der Hauptmann) is the story of a German army deserter who, in the last days of April 1945, claims to be an army officer and Hitler’s special envoy. Taking advantage of the chaos, he organises a squad of similar free-wheelers and deserters. The project was first developed within the framework of the Polish-German Co-Development Fund, and then co-financed by the Polish Film Institute.

Screening Dates

  • 7.09,  15:00 Scotia 14 (press & industry)
  • 9.09,  15:15 TBLB 1 (TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema)
  • 11.09, 16:15 Scotia 10
  • 13.09, 11:30 Scotia 8 (pokaz prasowy i branżowy)
  • 16.09, 15:30 Scotia 14

Scaffolding and Miracle in Discovery Section


An Israeli-Polish co-production supported by the Polish Film Institute, Scaffolding – Matan Yair’s debut – was included in the programme Discovery. “At its core, Scaffolding is a sharply drawn study of the father-son dynamic; highlighted by teachings of thematically appropriate Greek tragedies and works by Chekhov, the only heavy-handed moments in an otherwise impressively sensitive film” – we read in Screen Daily review. Nikki Baughan calles Matan Yair’s movie “a small film with a big heart” and underlines “Scaffolding’s strong message and central performance from striking newcomer Asher Lax — one of Yair’s real-life students and the inspiration for the film”.

Screening Dates

  • 09.09, 21:15 Scotia 8
  • 12.09, 21:00 Scotia 11
  • 14.09, 16:30 TBLB 3 (TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema)
  • 17.09, 12:30 Scotia 14


Also in Discovery section will premiere Miracle by Lithuanian director Egle Vertelyte. Lithuania 1992. The lives of the owners of a nationalized pig farm in a tiny post-Communist town are turned upside-down when a handsome American arrives, apparently to save the struggling factory. But as Irena, the owner, begins to fall for his charms she realizes that his intentions may not be what he claims. Famous Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski plays a Catholic priest in the film. The cast includes Egle Mikulionyte, Andrius Bialobzeskis and US based Vyto Ruginis. Lukas Trimonis is producing through Luthuania’s InScript in coproduction with Pavlina Jeleva through Bulgaria’s Geopoly and the financial participation of Poland’s Orka Postproduction Studio. The project was supported by the Lithuanian Film Center, the Bulgarian National Film Center, Eurimages and the EU Media programme.

Screening Dates

  • 7.09, 21:45 Scotia 8 (press & industry)
  • 8.09, 18:15 TBLB 4 (TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema)
  • 10.09, 18:45, Scotia 8
  • 14.09, 21:15 Scotia 8 (press & industry)
  • 16.09, 12:15 Scotia 8

Polish Film in Wavelengths Section

Yeti, a short experimental film by Wojciech Bąkowski will screen in the festival’s Wavelengths section, focusing on a new look at cinema and visual arts.

This eight-minute short by Polish artist Wojciech Bąkowski combines lo-fi video footage and computer animation. Bąkowski’s films have previously screened at the Toronto IFF in 2013 (Suchy Pion/Dry Standpipe) and 2015 (Analiza wzruszeń i rozdrażnień/Analysis of Emotions and Vexations), also in the festival’s Wavelengths section.

Screening: 10.09, 19:15 TBLB 3 (TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema)

Małgorzata Szumowska in the Platform Section Jury

Małgorzata Szumowska. Photo by Jacek Poremba

Małgorzata Szumowska, along with Chen Kaige and Wim Wenders, will be in the jury of the Platform competition. The Platform section features 12 films from around the world. According to festival director Piers Handling, this section is aimed at showcasing the creative visions of directors who are constantly expanding the frontiers of art and serve as examples of a bold, dynamic and unique voice in contemporary cinema.” In 2015, one of the Platform jury members was Agnieszka Holland.

Polish Films in Toronto

Over the past few editions of the Toronto IFF, films co-financed by the Polish Film Institute have always been featured in the festival’s lineup and recommended to Canadian and international audiences by festival director Piers Handling. Films screening at TIFF included Essential Killing and 11 minut (11 Minutes), both by Jerzy Skolimowski, Powidoki (Afterimage) by Andrzej Wajda, Ida by Paweł Pawlikowski, W ciemności (In Darkness) by Agnieszka Holland, Zaćma by Ryszard Bugajski, 33 sceny z życia (33 Scenes from Life), Sponsoring (Elles) and Body/Ciało (Body), all three by Małgorzata Szumowska, as well as Róża (Rosa) by Wojciech Smarzowski, Galerianki (Mall Girls) and Bejbi Blues (Baby Blues) both by Katarzyna Rosłaniec, Imagine by Andrzej Jakimowski, as well as Chrzest (The Christening) and Demon by Marcin Wrona.

The 42nd Toronto IFF runs from September 7 through September 17, 2017.

Further details about the festival are available at: www.tiff.net/tiff.

Marta Sikorska