‘Emotional’ film about a melancholic donkey chosen as Poland’s Oscar nomination
A film in which the main role is played by a sad-eyed donkey will be the Polish candidate for the Best International Film at next year’s Oscars.
Announced yesterday, the film named EO by veteran filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski was selected from among seven other titles: The Balcony Movie, Illusion, Silent Earth, Woman on the Roof, Broad Peak, Fucking Bornholm and Filip.
The Polish-Italian co-production tells the story of a donkey, who, wandering around the world, suffers cruelty at the hands of man.
Passed from hand to hand, the animal meets both good and bad people in a series of adventures.
Skolimowski said that the inspiration for his film was shipments of Polish horsemeat to Italy in which horses are transported alive, tightly packed in trucks in inhumane conditions during which some of them die.
The hero of my film is rescued in Italy from such a transport and experiences even the happiest moments of his life, which, however, end dramatically.
“We want to move the viewer so that the film is a protest against human cruelty to animals,” he said.
EO, the name of the donkey, begins his adventure by performing in the circus with a young artist named Kasandra. The girl cares for him well and gives EO her unconditional love.
When bailiffs enter the circus after a demonstration by opponents of animal abuse, the two have to separate.
The donkey ends up in a stable, and later changes owners several times. He is cared for by a truck driver and then by an Italian priest, who takes the animal to the estate of a countess.
The story is a cinematic allegory, and the title of the film alludes to the sound that donkeys make.
Head of the Polish Oscar Committee Ewa Puszczyńska justified the committee’s decision saying: “It is an extremely beautiful, emotional and very timely film, dealing with very topical issues, showing the cruelty of humans to animals, and the cruelty of humans to each other. That is, it is what is happening in the world at the moment […] Emotional, wonderful cinema.”
Reacting to the decision, Skolimowski said, “Of course, I am very proud to represent Polish cinema with my film. This is not the first time, by the way, but this time I hope it will be different from previous attempts, because this film is different from all the ones I have made. It differs in that it is a film made with heart, with commitment to a just cause.”
In September, the film will receive its Polish premiere when it competes in the main competition of the 47th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia and will finally hit cinema screens on September 30.
This is the second time Jerzy Skolimowski's film will compete for an Oscar nomination: in 2015, his film 11 Minutes failed to be put forward for nomination.
The film’s chances of success next year are boosted by the fact that US distributor of EO is Sideshow, which is responsible for the success of last year’s best foreign pic winner Drive My Car, and the film's pre-Oscar PR will be handled by Acme, in the past responsible for Ida and Cold War.
“I think the film is really in very good hands, and now all we have to do is keep our fingers crossed,” Puszczyńska said.
Skolimowski, a director, screenwriter, writer and actor, was born in 1938 in Łódź and made his first film in 1960.
He directed films such as Hands Up, Four Nights with Anna and Essential Killing and is a leading representative of Polish new wave cinema.
The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is accepting submissions in the Best International Film category until October 3.
On December 21, it will announce the shortlist of films that could be nominated for the Oscar.
The list of the final five nominees for the 2023 Oscars will be announced on January 24 next year. AMPAS members will cast their votes from March 2-7 before the 95th Academy Awards Gala on March 12, 2023 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Poland has won the best foreign film Oscar only once, in 2015, when Paweł Pawlikowski’s Ida received the award.