Ji.hlava New Visions Award Winner Lidia Duda Talks Dark Side of the ‘Forest’

Ji.hlava New Visions Award Winner Lidia Duda Talks Dark Side of the ‘Forest’

October 29, 2022

Lidia Duda’s “Forest,” currently in development, emerged victorious at Ji.hlava Film Festival, picking up its first-ever New Visions Award for the most promising European project.

The trophy comes with post-production services valued at €15,000 and €5,000, courtesy of UPP and Soundsquare, respectively.

Polish doc – set to premiere in 2024 – also won #Docs Connect Taskovski training award, with Mike Crane’s “Recording Mary” singled out among this year’s U.S. projects.

Berlinale chief Carlo Chatrian and fellow jurors producer Michael Rogosin and New Horizons’ artistic director Ewa Szabłowska praised its ability to tackle one of the contradictions of the contemporary world, “where the aspirations for heaven on Earth are confronted with the harsh reality of Europe nowadays.”

It marks yet another success for Duda, an established filmmaker whose well-received “Fledglings” about visually impaired children premiered at Locarno earlier this year, scoring the Marco Zucchi Award.

Now, she will focus on a Polish family who escaped corporate jobs and big cities, deciding to settle down surrounded by nature. But while their children grow up happily, the idyll comes to an end. The forest right next to their home is hiding dark secrets., and refugees who try their best to survive.

“We didn’t wait for any financial support. We just jumped in our car and went there,” Duda tells Variety following her win, praising the film’s DoP Zuzanna Zachara-Hassairi, who was often “drowning in mud” during the challenging shoot.

“Forest” is produced by Adrianna Rędzia, Michał Ostatkiewicz and Aleksandra Ostatkiewicz of Lumisenta Foundation, as well as Anna Bławut-Mazurkiewicz of Aura Films. Krzysztof Ridan handled sound.

In her film, fairytale meets nightmare, says Duda.

“The couple we show wanted to escape from the evils of the world. They wanted to create an asylum, a mini-paradise for their children. Suddenly, their life has changed – politics invaded their space. But they made a choice. They decided to help.”

While the family couldn’t remain indifferent, the pain they witnessed started to weigh them down. But all these difficulties brought them closer together, argues the helmer.

“They rescued a family with five children, but a woman miscarried and then died. They saw terrible things and afterwards, our protagonist still had to go home and put her children to bed, singing them lullabies.”

“Now, the winter is coming and they will have to go back. They will have to absorb all this evil again. The shoot will end in the spring, when their wounds will start healing again.”

According to producer Adrianna Rędzia, “Forest” is about strength.

“Not just the strength of someone’s character, but the strength of this family,” she adds, underlining its positive message.

During the ongoing Russia’s war against Ukraine, some refugees are more ‘wanted’ by the Polish government than others, they state. But their protagonists do not differentiate and neither will they, eschewing political statements for a more universal approach.

“We don’t show any humanitarian activities or any volunteers. Just portraits of people. These five children looking into the camera are just that: they are children. You shouldn’t care where they come from. We are blurring the lines here,” says Duda.

Eager to capture the collision between her protagonists’ perfect world and “the wilderness that kills,” she intends to deliver an “artistic” documentary, while paying special attention to sound.

“Once you enter this forest, darkness is all you can see. You hear the sounds of the animals, you hear them breathe, something suddenly runs past you. You start to experience this primal fear.”

Duda wants her future viewers to experience what the refugees are experiencing there, imprisoned in the forest. But she also found hope in this story, she notes.

“I found it in this family, even though it came at a price. I don’t believe the world will suddenly change, that we won’t be so cruel anymore, that there will be no wars. But we can change things in our small worlds, one family at a time. After all, if we don’t react, who will? Our politicians?!”

“These are unstable times: suddenly, you might be the one knocking on someone’s door,” adds Rędzia.

“I want to believe that when I do, there will be someone on the other side who actually wants to help.”

You can find the full list of Jihlava Industry Awards here.

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