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ROTTERDAM 2019 IFFR Pro

Olga Chajdas • Director of Stillborn

"The film will be a modern punk story, a depiction of a historical moment as seen by a young, struggling, rebellious woman"

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- Cineuropa talked to Polish director Olga Chajdas about her inspiration behind her new project, Stillborn, and its current production status

Olga Chajdas  • Director of Stillborn
(© Rafal Placek)

Stillborn, a drama that follows a fragile young woman from 1987 all the way up to Poland’s first post-communist free election in 1989, written and directed by Polish filmmaker Olga Chajdas, was the big winner of the €20,000 Eurimages Co-Production Development Award at International Film Festival Rotterdam’s (IFFR) 36th CineMart (see the news). Stillborn is being produced by Izabela Wójcik for Warsaw-based Apple Film Production. Cineuropa talked to the director about her inspiration behind her project and its current production status.

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Cineuropa: Your new project is branded as a “post-punk psychological drama about motherhood”. Could you give us some more details about Stillborn?
Olga Chajdas:
 Stillborn is the story of 21-year-old Ela, the youngest of nine children, an over-sensitive, bipolar artist, and the only woman in a punk band, who finds comfort in spirituality, sex, alcohol, drugs and music. It isn’t until she becomes pregnant herself that she finds a way to connect with her own, oblivious mother. All of these events are followed through changes in Poland in the late 1980s, which coincide with the birth of the local alternative music scene. That moment of the country’s transformation is reflected in Ela’s pursuit of love and change.

During the presentation of your project, you mentioned that the narration of Ela’s personal story, which is blended with Poland’s socio-political changes, will be divided into different chapters. What is the reason behind your choosing to follow this path?
The structure of the script reflects an emotional storyline, rather than a dramaturgical one, so, with my co-writer Lena Góra, we decided to give our character those turning points. Ela’s transgression is an offence, a violation of primal laws, and her fight against social norms and roles turns into a scream demanding her own place in the world. The historical background works like a mirror. Our film is going to be a modern punk story, a depiction of this moment in history as seen by a young, struggling, rebellious woman. Our location will be the conglomerate of Poland’s coastal cities of Gdynia and Gdańsk, which were also the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union and were the true meccas of the alternative movements. It’s a vibrant place with a unique atmosphere and a certain gravity to it at the same time.

How helpful will the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award be for your project?
First of all, thanks to this Eurimages Award, the script and the project will receive the recognition that we have been looking for. It’s a story driven by a strong female character, with the added gravitas of being a tale about this specific era, which we firmly believe has the potential to become a quality European co-production. We were also successful in finding other European partners, and we will be able to begin early-stage pre-production, which is a real step forward.

What were your expectations before IFFR’s CineMart, and what else are you looking for now? 
We arrived at CineMart mainly looking for European partners willing to jump on board the project right away. At the same time, we were also looking for possible sales agents willing to get involved at this early, script phase. The film is now being packaged and we are waiting for the contracts with the possible partners to be finalised. 

How was the experience of returning to IFFR after your debut film, Nina [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, was screened and awarded there?

Rotterdam is a place with an amazing atmosphere and understanding of artists. It’s a genuine festival with a real love for films and brave projects. I was lucky enough to premiere my first film, Nina, at IFFR and was happy to receive the VPRO Big Screen Award. This is how my adventure started. Coming back with my new project was like a homecoming surrounded by friends, full of support and energy.

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