A Chat with Agnieszka Holland

In Darkness, Agnieszka Holland’s latest film, is based on a true story about a sewer worker and petty thief in Lvov (a Nazi occupied city in Poland), who helps a group of Jews hide beneath the city streets to escape the liquidation of the ghetto.

The film was written by Canadian David F. Shamoon (a first time feature writer) who stumbled on the story in a Toronto newspaper.

The story follows Leopold Socha (Robert Więckiewicz), a sewer worker and petty thief, who struggles to make ends meet for his wife and daughter. His friend, a high-living Ukrainian Officer, dangles the promise of a better life: all Socha has to do is find Jews hiding in the sewers. After all, no one knows the system better than Socha, who uses it as a hiding place for his loot. Soon enough, Socha comes across a motley group of Jews trying to escape the upcoming liquidation of the Lvov ghetto by hiding in the sewers. They offer Socha money to protect them. Although he is aware that helping a Jew could mean immediate execution for him and his family, Socha sees this as easy cash and they strike a deal.

What makes In Darkness so compelling is that the characters are all flawed.

Neither the hero nor the victims are sugar-coated. Their selfishness makes them complex and sometimes unbearable.

Warsaw born Holland is a two-time Academy Award nominee. Her first Oscar nod came in 1986 for Angry Harvest in the Best Foreign Language Film category and, again, in 1992 for Europa, Europa in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.

She was also the Co-Writer of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s masterful Three Colors: White (1994) Three Colors: Blue (1993). More recently, Holland directed episodes of U.S. television series that include The Wire, Cold Case and AMC’s The Killing.

In Darkness is Poland’s Oscar candidate in the Best Foreign Language Film category and will go to Canadian, American and international distribution in early 2012.

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Tickets sold out within an hour. It was during this time we spoke with the pre-eminent Polish director.

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