Atheists meet Catholics in the comic road-movie documentary Once Upon a Time in Poland
- The duo of provocative and thought-provoking filmmakers consisting of Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda are finishing their latest project, billed as a performative doc
Duo of renowned Czech documentarians Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda – who rose to prominence with their feature debut, Czech Dream, about “the largest consumer hoax in the Czech Republic” (a social experiment and large-scale prank all in one) – have recently been working on their own, separate projects. Since The White World According to Daliborek [+see also:
interview: Vít Klusák
film profile], Klusák has been finishing his probe into the mechanisms used by online predators, Caught in the Net [+see also:
film profile], while Remunda has shot two entries in the Czech Journal documentary cycle, #sandrainuganda and The Okamura Brothers, unveiled during the latest edition of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival. However, they have been collaborating together on another project that recalls their trademark style first used in Czech Dream: Once Upon a Time in Poland (formerly known as Pepik the Czech Goes to Poland in a Quest for Love of God or, in shorthand, Czech Pepa) has been in development for the last five years.
Described as “a performative documentary in the style of Borat” and an “existential comic road movie”, Once Upon a Time in Poland sees a film crew from the Czech Republic, “the most atheistic nation in Europe”, visiting Poland, “the most religious nation in the European Union”, in order to find God and understand Polish Catholicism. “We prefer to search without any bias, hesitate and change our minds – we see this as more honest and surprising,” reveal the filmmakers in the directors’ notes, dispelling any preconception that the film could boil down to nothing more than frivolous mockery. They add, “We do not wish to disprove anybody’s belief.”
Conceived as a meta-film, the Czech and Slovakian members of the film crew, the movie’s characters, encounter Polish believers on their unusual quest. The synopsis teases the directions in which the plot could potentially unfold: “Can the Czech crew find God in a number of scandals plaguing the Polish Church? And are director Karel and his crew ready to embrace faith?” Besides being filmed acting as a film crew, the protagonists, who are all experienced cinema professionals in real life, will shoot their own material, which will then be incorporated into the final cut.
The “making of a film” constitutes another layer of the project, as the filmmakers note: “It deepens the portrayal of the ‘Czech and Slovak’ side of the project” as moral and ethical questions emerge. Klusák and Remunda say that the endeavour will result in a portrait of three European nations “looking for common ground in terms of what matters most – the meaning of life”. Slovakian co-producer Peter Kerekes noted that he boarded the project because of the main topic, “reflecting Central Europe’s history, presence and identity”. The film is currently in post-production, as the editing is being finalised. Producer Jana Brožková, of Vernes, confirmed to Cineuropa that the DCP master should be ready by the end of March 2020. Sales agents and distributors are currently under negotiation.
Once Upon a Time in Poland is being produced by Czech outfit Vernes, and co-produced by Czech Television, Hypermarket Film (Czech Republic), Plesnar & Krauss Films (Poland), Krakow Festival Office (Poland) and Peter Kerekes Film (Slovakia). The film’s budget is €250,000, and it was supported by the Czech Film Fund, the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, Creative Europe/MEDIA, the Polish Film Institute, the Fund of the Malopolska Region of Bydgoszcz and the Krakow Regional Film Fund. The project was presented at both Docu Talents from the East and East Doc Platform.
You can watch the trailer for Once Upon a Time in Poland below:
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