Leave No Traces, Poland’s entry for the International Feature Oscar race this year, may be set in the past (1983), but its story is entirely relevant to the modern day.
The film, which debuted this year in Competition at the Venice Film Festival, chronicles true events that took place in Poland in 1983, when the country was shaken by the case of a high school student being beaten to death by militia. Subsequently, the only witness of the beating became the No. 1 enemy of the state.
As director Jan P. Matuszyński tell us during Aurum Film’s panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film: International awards-season event, the incident at the core of the film provokes viewers to think about the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police last year.
“The story of the beating of a young innocent boy is very universal,” Matuszyński said. “What makes it universal is very tragic and sad.”
The filmmaker added that the pic also serves as a “warning” for a country that has dealt with an oppressive regime over the years.
“People understand the problem of the government overusing its power,” he said. “This film is a reminder that we had that kind of thing in Poland since 1983… we really don’t want to go back there.”
Matuszyński saw his lead actor, Tomasz Ziętek, in the film Corpus Christi and was impressed enough by his performance to make him the first name on the list when he began to prepare Leave No Traces. “It was the beginning of a beautiful collaboration and friendship,” he said.
Ziętek added that he was “more than happy” when he read the screenplay and was excited to join up with a crew he describes as “all-star.”
Check out the panel video above.