Annecy 2021: ‘Loving Vincent’ duo discuss new hand-painted feature film ‘Les Paysans’ (exclusive) | Characteristics
In 2017 and 2018, Love Vincent, the oil-painted animated feature film by Polish artist and director Dorota Kobiela on Vincent van Gogh, grossed over $ 40 million at the international box office and earned an Oscar nomination.
So there is a huge curiosity for his next project, and Kobiela will participate in a work-in-progress presentation at the Annecy Festival on Friday June 18th of his new hand-painted feature film. Farmers, which is sold by New Europe Film Sales.
Distributors have already toured the film, which should be ready for release in the second half of 2022. On the eve of the Annecy presentation, New Europe announced new agreements on Farmers to South Korea (First Run) and the Czech Republic and Slovakia (Bohemia).
As previously announced, The Jokers acquired the film for France and Koch Media for German-speaking Europe. New Europe is in discussions with buyers in several other territories and will present new images in Cannes in July.
Based on a novel by Polish Nobel Prize-winning author Wladyslaw Reymont, Farmers is the tragic Thomas Hardy story of a beautiful peasant girl forced to marry a wealthy older farmer when she is in fact in love with her son. The finished film is expected to consist of around 80,000 hand-painted frames and run for two hours, considerably longer than its 93-minute predecessor.
Painters are currently working on the project in Poland, Serbia and Ukraine. The release may be over a year away, but the filmmakers are frantically busy and have refurbished a 1930s powerhouse in Sopot, Poland, as a studio base.
How to follow ‘Vincent’
As Kobiela and her British partner Hugh Welchman explain, there was a discussion after Love Vincent that they should look for another artist whose story they could tell in the same style.
“The logical thing was to see if there were any other very famous artists where we could tell the biopic of their lives using their paintings. But we felt very strongly that we didn’t want to do this as a follow-up. open to that in the future, but we wanted to try something new, ”says Welchman, co-writer and producer on both feature films, and also co-director on Love Vincent.
After this idea was rejected, another idea was to make an animated horror partly inspired by the war paintings of Spanish artist Francisco Goya. This has also been put aside for the time being.
It was around the same time that Kobiela thought of Farmers, a book she had read for the first time at school without him noticing much. However, a few years later, when she listened to the audiobook version and then reread the novel, she fell in love with it.
“I love the writing, the style, its epic format. I liked the characters and the fact that everyone is so undefined. There is no harm or harm or good. Everyone is fishy and interesting, ”says Kobiela, who also liked the way the story was“ tied to the land ”and the seasons.
The director gifted the book to Welchman in 2016. While the archaic English translation was on the “turgid” side, he also spotted its potential for adaptation.
“The only thing that stands out is that it was all so pictorial,” he says. “There are these incredible descriptions of nature, of village life. When I read it, I saw paintings in my head, like realistic paintings from the 19th century.
It was, they decided, a story that would lend itself perfectly to the oil painting animation technique patented on Love Vincent, but with a visual style that would be “much more realistic than Van Gogh’s post-impressionist style,” as Kobiela puts it. She also recognized that “there would be more artistic freedom” than on Love Vincent, with Van Gogh’s paintings very familiar to most people.
The main concern of the filmmakers was whether the project would have universality for working with a foreign audience. While Reymont’s novel – which was published in four parts between 1904 and 1909, before winning him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1924 – is on the national program in Poland, it is little known abroad. However, Penguin Classics is preparing a new English translation that will be released to coincide with the film’s scheduled release in 2022.
“It was a pure peasant story and also a thrilling and passionate love quadrilateral,” Welchman said of the novel. “What could be more different from Love Vincent than a very dynamic and passionate film that is full of fighting, dancing and singing, and with two female roles.
“There’s a lot of sex and violence in there,” he adds.
Farmers was easier to finance than its predecessor. It is again being produced by Breakthru Films, the company founded by Welchman in which Kobiela serves as Creative Director alongside CEO Sean Bobbitt (who is the lead producer of the new film).
The strategy was to get Polish support first and then go from there. The Polish Film Institute got on board early, as did Warsaw-based New Europe Film Sales. “We were impressed with this [New Europe] have achieved and they appear to be an agency that goes places, ”Welchman says. “They know the novel and they like the ambition of the project.
Early pre-sales suggested there was an international appetite for the film. At $ 5 million, Farmers‘the budget is about the same as Love Vincent, and relatively modest given its size.
Like with Love Vincent, the filmmakers have been in contact with museums, and discussions are underway on an accompanying exhibition, showcasing works from the film alongside paintings by the New Polish Realists.
The filmmakers’ exhaustive attention to visuals was extended to casting as well. For the lead role of Jagna, they launched a nationwide talent hunt. “In the book, she is described as incredibly beautiful,” notes Kobiela. “That was one of the reasons we were looking for a spectacularly beautiful girl.”
“We know all the famous actors in Poland quite well,” Welchman adds. “We just weren’t convinced there was anyone in that selection who was Jagna. So we wanted to do a basic casting process. We advertise on Facebook and Instagram and other social media platforms; we contacted all theater schools, as well as high schools. We had a few thousand people who sent us demo tapes.
Ultimately, Kamila Urzedowska was cast for the role, with the rest of the cast being made up of prominent Polish actors. Although Urzedowska has a few credits on the small screen, she is mostly unknown but is now seen as Poland’s answer to star-up Julie Christie. Kobiela talks about her “very intriguing and modern look” which she hopes will appeal to a younger audience.
While live filming was suspended last year due to the pandemic, it has since resumed and is expected to end in early fall. Ultimately, the filmmakers say they won’t have any objection if local distributors decide to dub Farmers. “There is so much going on in the picture that it’s too bad people have to read the captions,” Welchman suggests.
In their Annecy session, the team will not only present images of the project. They may also seek to recruit new artists to work there.
“It would be nice if there were a lot of people sitting in the audience who just happen to be amazing animators and amazing painters,” Welchman said. “Hopefully the word gets out there and we have more candidates for the painting / animation process.”