POLAND, UKRAINE, UNITED KINGDOM | 2019 | COLOR | 141 MIN. | ENGLISH, UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN, POLISH
Starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard, Agnieszka Holland´s (The Secret Garden, Europa Europa, In Darkness) epic drama, which premiered in competition at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival, is the story of a young Welsh journalist, Gareth Jones (Norton), who uncovers the gruesome truth about the Holmodor, the Soviet-Union induced famine that killed millions of Ukrainians between 1932-33. Ostensibly an historical drama, the film combines elements of horror, fantasy, even magic realism, to create a lush but austere examination of human misery, corruption and the power of the written word. Operating under a cloud of cryptic secrecy, epitomised by the figure of the morally corrupt Walter Duranty (Sarsgaard) – the once-revered, now-discredited New York Times correspondent in Moscow – Jones´ plight to fight lay bare corruption takes him from Moscow to the depths of the Ukranian countryside, where haunting scenes featuring starving children provide the heart of a film that is as urgent as it is devastatingly beautiful.
Review by: Chloë Roddick
Agnieszka Holland | Warsaw | Poland, 1948
Agnieszka Holland graduated from the FAMU Film School in Prague and began her career assiting Krzysztof Zanussi and Andrzej Wajda. She collaborated with Krzysztof Kieślowski in the script of his trilogy Three Colors. Her film Fever was screened at the Berlinale in 1981, the year she emigrated to Paris. Since then, she has made more than 30 films, winning prizes such as Alfred Bauer for Spoor (2017) in the Berlin meeting. Her film Europa, Europa (1981) was nominated for an Oscar in the category of best adapted screenplay.