"Spoor" to be Poland's Oscar Candidate

The Oscar Committee includes representatives of the Polish film industry and the General Director of the Polish Film Institute. This year’s Committee members Paweł Pawlikowski (chairman), Grażyna Torbicka, Stefan Laudyn, Arthur Reinhart, Tomasz Wasilewski, Agnieszka Smoczyńska and Magdalena Sroka, selected Pokot (Spoor), a film by Agnieszka Holland, to be Poland’s Oscar candidate in the Best Foreign Language Academy Award category.

“After long discussions the committee decided that Pokot (Spoor) is the best candidate to represent Poland this year in the challenging Oscar run. We considered several titles, and in our opinion Agnieszka Holland’s feature has the most traits to support its promotional campaign and subsequently increase its chances for securing an Oscar nomination,” said Paweł Pawlikowski.

Pokot (Spoor) is a universal, carefully crafted story that certainly increases our sensibility. This patchwork of genres remains incredibly current and has us constantly asking basic questions. It is a film about the value of fighting for what surrounds us, for our environment and for those who are weaker than us. Pokot (Spoor) is a film with a strong message that also serves as a long feminine voice; works by women have been increasingly present in world cinema in recent years,” he added.

“Agnieszka Holland is a director highly regarded by members of the Academy. She is a three-time Oscar-nominee, including twice in the Best Foreign Language Film category, and she continues to work on television projects in the US. Additionally Pokot (Spoor), winner of the Silver Bear in Berlin, has been released in several countries and has a very experienced sales agent (Beta Cinema),” said Magdalena Sroka, General Director of the Polish Film Institute.

“It is no coincidence that we are launching the promotional campaign of Agnieszka Holland’s film at the Toronto IFF. It is an important festival for films in the running for the Oscars. Like in previous years, the Polish Film Institute will support the Oscar campaign of the Polish candidate. Should Pokot (Spoor) be shortlisted, the support of the Polish Film Institute will increase,” said Magdalena Sroka.

Pokot (Spoor)

Pokot (Spoor). Photo by Robert Pałka/ Studio Filmowe TOR

The main protagonist of Agnieszka Holland’s latest film is retired engineer Janina Duszejko, living in the Polish Sudeten mountains. Astrologist and vegetarian. One snowy winter night, she stumbles upon the dead body of her neighbour. The man, a poacher, had died a mysterious death. The only visible tracks around his house are roe deer hooves. Seeing the ineptitude of the police, Duszejko begins an unconventional investigation of her own.

The script was written by Agnieszka Holland and Olga Tokarczuk, based on Olga Tokarczuk’s best-selling novel “Drive Your Plough over the Bones of the Dead”, published in 2009. The film was lensed by Jolanta Dylewska in collaboration with Rafał Paradowski, and scored by Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz. 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 was produced by Studio Filmowe TOR, and supported by the European Union’s MEDIA Programme and the script was developed with support from the Polish-German Co-Development Fund. The film’s other 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) was released theatrically in Poland on February 24, 2017. Distribution in Poland is handled by Next Film.

World Premiere and Silver Bear at Berlinale

Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik with the Silver Bear for Pokot (Spoor). Photo by Bartosz Sadowski

Pokot (Spoor) had its world premiere at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, screening in Main Competition and winning the Silver Bear, the Alfred Bauer award for opening new perspectives in film art. Following its Berlinale world premiere, Pokot (Spoor) was very warmly received by international film critics.

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 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 Łazarkiewicz, 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.

More reviews are available at en.pisf.pl/news/67th-berlinale-agnieszka-holland-s-pokot-spoor-wins-silver-bear.

Eligible for Nominations for the European Film Awards

Pokot (Spoor) is also in the running for nominations for the 2017 European Film Awards. Agnieszka Holland’s film is one of 51 feature films on a list published by the European Film Academy on August 22, 2017. Further details are available at: en.pisf.pl/news/polish-films-in-the-running-for-2017-european-film-awards.

In contending for the European Film Award in the Best European Film category, Pokot (Spoor) has received a recommendation from FIPRESCI.

International Distribution

The film’s world sales are handled by Beta Cinema. To date, Pokot (Spoor) has been released theatrically in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, and is soon scheduled for a theatrical release in Sweden and Spain.