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Producers on the Move 2015 – Poland

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Mariusz Wlodarski

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- In 2010, Mariusz Wlodarski founded Lava Films, which recently produced The Here After, which will be presented at Cannes as part of the Directors’ Fortnight

Mariusz Wlodarski

Mariusz Wlodarski, born in 1980, holds a degree in International Relations and completed his training at the National Film School in Lodz, Poland. He went on to work on international co-productions for Opus Film, one of the biggest Polish studios, with his notable projects including Simon Konianski [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Micha Wald, director of Sim…
film profile
]
 (with Belgian outfit Versus Production) and The Flying Machine (with British firm Breakthru Films). In 2010, along with three friends, he founded Lava Films, which recently produced The Here After [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Magnus von Horn
film profile
]
by Magnus von Horn, which will be presented at Cannes as part of the Directors’ Fortnight.

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Cineuropa: How would you define the editorial policy of Lava Films?
Mariusz Wlodarski: Our choices simply result from our tastes and the idea of following a theme or a creative director. We like the classics of Polish cinema, but we’re also inspired by international movies. We began by producing Magnus von Horn, a Swede who graduated from the National Film School in Lodz, and our first co-production was They Chased Me Through Arizona [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Matthias Huser
film profile
]
by Matthias Huser, from Switzerland. We’re currently in post-production with Piotr Stasik’s documentary 21 X New York [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, and we are developing Mariko Saga’s Viet Wander House (centred on a Japanese woman who narrates the history of the Vietnamese living in Warsaw). This international perspective is very important, and we also try to stay consistent and true to ourselves. 

What are your thoughts on the place of the producer in the creative process?
We, the producers, know how to finance and negotiate; we know the law and the economy to an extent, but at the same time, our artistic choices are deliberate. I know what motivates me, and I have a clear vision of what I’m going to do. I like to get involved very early on, from the development stage, to engage with the ideas that the director plants and grow together with them. It is difficult to become attached to and identify with a project when it is already too advanced. I prefer to work with the director, build a trusting relationship and create a cooperative atmosphere.

Is this how you worked with Magnus von Horn on The Here After, which will be presented in the Directors' Fortnight? The production lasted five years…
We met Magnus during our studies in Lodz. We worked on all of his films, and our partnership is still evolving. From the time the screenplay was ready for us, it lasted two-and-a-half years. We decided to give ourselves time; we told ourselves that we were young and that we shouldn’t rush. We wanted to subject the screenplay to various workshops and consultations in order to fine-tune it.

The main character of The Here After is a murderer, just out of prison and banished from society, like in Frédéric Fonteyne’s Tango libre [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Frédéric Fonteyne
film profile
]
, which you also produced. The characters in Viet Wander House seem to have similar profiles. Was this a deliberate choice?

It’s more a product of the subconscious. What interests me is what I don’t know in depth, what I don’t understand. And outcasts are a good way to shed light on this: ethnic and sexual minorities, offenders… Society easily distinguishes between good and evil, and rejects the negative side we prefer not to see. The domination of information in the media provides us with slogans, and we immediately segregate humans. Yet if we go deeper into a story, we discover that it contains a certain emotional pain, that a man is not totally bad because of an act that defines him, but that he has a past, relationships, parents who raised him, situations that have shaped him. This is why I choose subjects that arouse emotions we can identify with and have a real relationship with the character, without necessarily triggering any empathy. 

Lukasz Zal, the DoP on The Here After, was nominated for an Oscar for Ida [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Pawel Pawlikowski
interview: Pawel Pawlikowski
film profile
]
. By working with him, did you expect such hype?
Absolutely not, because we offered the project to Zal before all of Ida’s success. We considered several other cinematographers, but it was the emotional relationship aroused by the story that was important for us. Lukasz is a very talented cinematographer, and his interest lies in telling a story, not technique or technology.

What can you tell us about the Wooma project, based on a comic by Karol KRL Kalinowski and aimed at young audiences?
There are very few productions for children in Poland. They grow up with American culture and with generally poor-quality products. We realised that if we do not educate young viewers, we’ll lose them: they’ll simply disappear. It is, so to speak, an essential project.

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