Roman Polanski Prepping Next Feature in Poland, Wants Assurance He Won’t Be Extradited to U.S.

6:50 AM PST 06/30/2014 by Nick Holdsworth
Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images
Roman Polanski

The octogenarian director, still wanted in America on 40-year-old statutory rape charges, plans to film a biopic about a 19th-century French military officer falsely accused of espionage.

MOSCOW — Roman Polanski is hoping to shoot his next feature — a biopic about Alfred Dreyfus, the 19th-century French military officer falsely accused of espionage — in Poland.

PHOTOS 35 of 2014’s Most Anticipated Movies

Polanski has been scouting locations in Krakow and Warsaw with executives from the Polish Film Institute and top studios, including Alvernia, ATM Film Studio and Warsaw’s WFDiF. If he does film in Poland, it will be his first feature entirely shot there since his 1962 film, Knife in the Water.

He was last in Poland in September, when he caused a sensation after giving a master class to students at the Gdynia film festival, as he risked possible extradition to the U.S. by participating.
There were no moves to arrest Polanski, who holds dual French-Polish citizenship, and no extradition request. Under Polish law, the statute of limitations on his 1977 charges has long since expired.

PHOTOS Hollywood’s Most Fascinating Legal Sagas, From Casey Kasem to Michael Jackson

But Polanski, who has rented an apartment in Krakow and opened a Polish bank account in preparation for shooting the Dreyfus film, wants official guarantees on his legal security before committing to do the project in Poland.

“Both the artistic and technical conditions proposed by Polish studios fulfill expectations,” Robert Benmussa, his producer, told the Polish Film Institute. “But the final decision ultimately depends on the legal security of Roman Polanski in Poland.”

Polanski, who is understood to have remained in Krakow for a vacation after location scouting, has, according to the Polish Film Institute, instructed his lawyers to make it clear that if Poland wants to attract the $40 million project and its cast of top British and Hollywood actors, his security, particularly as it relates to any possible U.S. extradition request, must be guaranteed.

PHOTOS 25 of the Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2014

The Polish Film Institute, Polish Film Commission and city authorities in Krakow have all confirmed their interest in co-financing the film, and Polanski met them and Poland’s minister of culture, Malgorzata Omilanowska during his scouting trip.

Polanski has been Paris-based since 1978, as France is one of the few European countries that forbids extradition of its citizens to the U.S.

In 2010, he escaped a forced return to America after U.S. authorities lost an extradition battle in Switzerland, where Polanski had been invited to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival

Oscar Winner Nikita Mikhalkov Appeals to Free Ukrainian Filmmaker Held by Russians on Terrorist Charges

8:23 AM PST 06/30/2014 by Nick Holdsworth
Kristina Nikishina/Epsilon/Getty Images
Nikita Mikhalkov

The director’s comments at the closing of the Moscow Film Festival raise hopes for Oleg Sentsov’s release.

Mikhalkov used the closing ceremony of the 36th Moscow International Film Festival on Saturday as his opportunity to support calls for Oleg Sentsov to be freed.

PHOTOS 35 of 2014’s Most Anticipated Movies

Speaking to an invited audience at Moscow’s Pushkin Film Theater, Mikhalkov said he supports an appeal for Sentsov’s release made earlier in the evening by Sergey Trymbach, the head of the Ukrainian filmmakers union.

“I hope that Trymbach [has been] heard, and I hope that I am also heard,” he said at an event that was being televised live across Russia. “I join [Trymbach] and ask for [the] release [of] Oleg Sentsov.”

Mikhalkov, who is a noted supporter of President Vladimir Putin and has voiced his support for the Kremlin’s policies over Ukraine, added: “I express my solidarity with Ukrainian cultural workers; we are not politicians, we are artists, we must be independent of politicians.”

PHOTOS Hollywood’s Most Fascinating Legal Sagas, From Casey Kasem to Michael Jackson

Sentsov, an single father of two, was arrested early May at home in Simferopol, Crimea, by agents of Russian’s Federal Security Service, a successor body to the Soviet-era KGB, and later flown to Moscow’s Lefortovo jail.

Earlier this month, he was charged with plotting with others to blow up power lines, railway bridges, the offices of Russian political parties, a statute of Lenin and a wartime “eternal flame” monument.

FSB authorities say they found explosives, ammunition and “nationalist paraphernalia” in his home and that of three others arrested at the time. Security agents later said co-conspirators had admitted that they and Sentsov were members of Ukrainian far-right organisation Right Sector and had confessed to planning terrorist acts.

PHOTOS 25 of the Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2014

Friends and colleagues of Sentsov, whose second film Gaamer has received financial backing from German public film funds, say the charges are preposterous. The director was opposed to Russian annexation of Crimea and supported the winter protests against the government of former PresidentViktor Yanukovich, but they say he is no terrorist.

His arrest has alarmed members of the European filmmaking community, with directors includingAgnieszka Holland, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Pedro Almodovar appealing to Putin for his release.

Sentsov’s Moscow-based sister Natasha, who has been visiting him in prison and liaising with his lawyers, said Mikhalkov’s comments represent “significant progress” in the campaign to secure his freedom.

“When [Russian film director AlexanderSokhurov spoke at out for his freedom earlier this month at [national film festival] Kinotavr, that did not go out on live television,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “Mikhalkov’s remarks were broadcast across Russia and this from a man who has never on the side of the opposition. It represents great progress.”

British journalist: Russia’s aggressive face is just a front

Nick making a point during his 'public conversation' at the European Humanities University in Vilnius, April 2014.

Nick making a point during his ‘public conversation’ at the European Humanities University in Vilnius, April 2014.

April 2014, Vilnius

I gave a talk to the European Humanities Universities as tensions between Russia and the West were peaking shortly after the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea…

Here is the top line from the EHU site:

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is using judo tactics to throw political opponents off balance, says British journalist Nick Holdsworth. According to Holdsworth, who spoke at an EHU Public Conversation “The Beautiful and the Damned—Life in Eastern Europe in Transition,” to gain more from relations with Russia, the West needs to “loosen up” and try to see things through Russian eyes.

According to Holdsworth, Putin adopts a “judo philosophy” in politics—he plans a few moves ahead and keeps his opponents off balance—and thus far, Europe and the US seem to have failed to predict Russia’s next moves…

You can read more here:


Romania Filmmakers Launch Campaign to Stop Cinema Closures

Romanian filmmakers have launched a campaign to save the country’s fast disappearing single screen cinemas.

The campaign — ‘Save the Big Screen’ — aims to prevent the further closure of state-owned theaters and rebuild a network of urban art house cinemas to help revive the distribution of domestic films.

More than 400 cinemas have closed down since Romania’s revolution 25 years ago, leaving the country with just 30 single screen, downtown theaters and more than three quarters of towns and cities without a cinema.


Breakfast TV, Bishkek Style

There’s something poetic about getting up for a 7 a.m breakfast tv appearance to talk about movies when you’ve just arrived in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan and your body clock tells you that this is a deeply weird thing to be doing… particularly when you’ve blithely promised to do the whole thing live and in Russian…. but that’s what I did this morning (or evening, depending on where you happen to be in the world.)

Since NTS Bishkek’s UtroLive! went out… um, live…. I didn’t immediately have a link to my erudite comments about Kyrgzystan’s first ever historical epic film, Kurmanjan Datkabut from what the movie’s producer Farkhad Bekmambetov tells me, who watched my 15 minutes of fame, I made sense, which is a relief.

I do have a photo, courtesy of the Facebook site of the charming morning show presenter Nuraika (Nuraiyim Ryskulova) who had the presence of mind to ask as studio technician to snap a pic of us on the sofa when a music clip rolled at the end of our interview.

(and now: STOP PRESS, a link to the footage of..15 minutes of fame, Bishkek style….


Britain’s secessionist debate: King James speaks

Straying a little outside my usual Eastern approaches, but thinking of the recent ‘referendum’ in Crimea, this story from today’s Telegraph casts an intriguing historic light on the current debate over Scottish independence, due to go to a vote (north of the border) in September….




Ukraine: A glimmer of hope or a cynical agreement?

Russia today seems to have stepped back from the brink over Ukraine; talks in Geneva have produced a surprise agreement on de-escalating the crisis. Of course, words need to be put into action. On the face of it, the agreement not only means that armed men in eastern cities like Donetsk need to leave their barricades and the buildings they occupy, but that Maidan’s defences in Kiev also need to be dismantled — a demand made by Yanukovych’s administration months ago that sparked the violence that precipitated his flight from Ukraine.

Russia still has an agenda; what they means by federalism may be very different from what Kiev understands that to be. And things have come to such a pass that Ukraine needs to completely reinvent itself if it is to survive as a viable state. Tough choices remain to be made.





How an industry trip to Kaunas inspired a musical composition

This from a truly inspiring trip to Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city — which is actively promoting its wealth of locations to international film producers.

My news story courtesy of Vilnius International Film Festival…. they should have my short video of Bill playing ‘Eva’s Three Notes’ up on its site soon…although actually, it is now (April 5) up on YouTube courtesy of my Ukrainian colleague Larysa Artuigina…

For composer William Goldstein Monday’s visit to Kaunas to showcase the city’s benefits to filmmakers was an emotional experience.Mr Goldstein was among a group of a couple of dozen producers, directors and film guests of the festival’s industry sidebar “Meeting Point – Vilnius”, who were being shown the city by staff from the Kaunas Film Centre, which helps bring producers to the city.

Mr Goldstein — Bill to his friends — is in Vilnius for a screening of Latvian director Maris Martinsons’ “OKI in the Middle of the Ocean” in which he appears alongside festival jury member, Japanese actress and director, Kaori Momoi. But he had Kaunus on his mind.

“My grandfather was born here in 1874 and my great-grandfather in 1840,” said Bill who was raised in New Jersey, USA. The composer, who has more created scores for more than 50 film and television shows, including MGM’s 1980s series “Fame” and “Miracle Walker”, recorded 40 albums and in the Motown hall of fame under classical artists can be found between Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye, was keen to do some research into his family tree. That proved a challenge: Jews livings in the Kovno Gubernias it was known under Russian rule until Lithuania gained independence in 1918, were not required to have surnames until 1804, making research beyond that date impossible.

But for one of the world’s only practitioners of “instant composition” Bill was able to draw musical inspiration from the city and a beautiful local muse. 

Guests that included Ukrainian director and film school tutor Larysa Artiugina and director and screenwriter, (“White Shadow” screening in VIFF’s Critics’ Choice) Noaz Deshe, saw the city’s old town, mediaeval castle, Czarist era Fort No. 7, modernist cathedral, quaint funicular railway and other sites before a late lunch at the splendid Kaunas Garrsion Officers Club, built in 1937.

There, Bill chanced upon a Steinway grand piano, made in London in 1936, and couldn’t resist testing its keys.
After playing a short piece, Bill caught the eye of an innocent muse: festival industry coordinator Eva Brazdzionyte.

“Give me three notes,” Bill said.

Eva obliged and with those three notes Bill plunged into an absolutely original, instant composition, before an utterly spellbound audience. 

“I ask people to pick three notes because that keeps us in the moment; I take an idea – three notes — and develop it into a composition. It is something I’ve been doing since I was a boy.”
The name of that instant composition?

When asked, Bill smiled and said: “Eva’s Three Notes.”