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PRODUCTION Czech Republic/Slovakia/Ukraine/Poland

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Udo Kier and Harvey Keitel climb aboard Václav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird

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- The Czech director is directing and producing an adaptation of a controversial 1965 novel by Jerzy Kosinski

Udo Kier and Harvey Keitel climb aboard Václav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird
Petr Kotlár in The Painted Bird

Czech producer and director Václav Marhoul has managed to attract some well-known actors to his upcoming project, The Painted Bird. Udo Kier, Harvey Keitel and Stellan Skarsgård have joined the international cast, with nine-year-old Czech actor Petr Kotlár taking the leading role, along with Polish Lech Dyblik (Poland), Nina Šunevič and Ala Sakalova (Ukraine), Aleksei Kravchenko (Russia) and Petr Vaněk and Jitka Čvančarová (Czech Republic). According to the producers, another two big names in world cinema will be attached to the project as soon as their agents have finalised the paperwork. The Painted Bird marks Marhoul’s third feature film after Smart Philip (2003), a stylised detective-story parody, and WWII drama Tobruk (2008).

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Jerzy Kosinski’s novel follows a boy wandering through Eastern Europe during WWII, after being sent to safety by his parents who are hiding from the Germans, and who both witnesses and endures violence and cruelty. Despite featuring a wide array of deviances such as bestiality, rape, incest and murder, Kosinski’s book sparked controversy mainly due to perplexity over its nature (the author later stated that the book is a work of fiction and not an autobiography, as was at first believed). Marhoul has said that he was intrigued by the story, and managed to get the license for the adaptation signed in 2010. He spent three years writing the script, producing seventeen different versions written in collaboration with eight playwrights, and the project received a Special Mention award from the ScripTeast programme at Cannes in 2013.

The first take will be shot on 23 March; with 105 shooting days planned, the production will be split into six phases, with filming taking place in Slovakia, in the Czech Republic and, for the final phase, in the Polish town of Świebodzice in June 2018. The budget of the project is €5.8 million and the final film should be unveiled in May 2019, before going on general release in Slovak and Czech cinemas in September 2019.

The Painted Bird is being produced by Marhoul’s company, Silver Screen, in partnership with Czech Television. Eduard Kučera and Certicon are co-producing for the Czech side with PubRes and Radio and Television Slovakia on the Slovak side, along with Ukrainian company Directory Films and Poland’s Film Produkcja. The project has received support from the Czech State Cinematography Fund, Creative Europe – MEDIA, the Czech Ministry of Culture and the Ukrainian State Film Agency.

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