FINDING “PALLADIN” – AND SUBSTANCE: INTERVIEW WITH FILMMAKER ANDRZEJ KRAKOWSKI

The other day I perused my local video store looking for a good drama. Not so much a tear-jerker, but, as my grandma would always say, “Something with a good story.” After looking through countless slasher films and movies about fast cars and explosions, I reluctantly ended up in the foreign section looking at French films. Although France may not be my favorite country, they seem to make a good character-driven story.

And who’s to blame for the lack of substance in American films? The public? The media? The Dark side? Keep guessing.

The mother of all evil, the bad of the bad, the economy… Because of the state of the economy, distributors are taking less and less of a risk on purchasing what they would call high-risk Indie films (no big Hollywood names, or no big Michael Bay effects). So, we as the public are left with little variety, and even less substance.

So what am I getting at with all this? A lot of good films like “Looking for Palladin” are going to be looked over by distributors because of the economy. That also means that I’m going to have to listen to a lot more snooty French people in the near future. No! “Looking for Palladin” and a lot of other good films deserve to be seen by the public regardless of the state of the economy!

Writer-Director Andrzej Krakowski, a veteran filmmaker of over forty years and film professor at City College of New York, shot the film amongst the picturesque backdrops of Antigua, Guatemala. The cinematography is gorgeous, with mountains in the background and the feel of 17th Century Spaniards in the foreground. Krakowki’s heartfelt film tackles the question of what happens to Hollywood Stars’ children who get left behind for their parents’ selfish lifestyles. The character Jack Palladin, played by Ben Gazzara, is confronted by something he ran away from well over thirty years ago, when he was a big-time celebrity. Now an older and wiser person, how will he handle being confronted with his lingering past and a new proposition?

Andrzej Krakowski’s character-driven film takes its time with the characters, giving the audience a chance to get to know the them and their lives. The theme doesn’t involve transforming robots or building crawling super heroes. It centers on real people and their introspect on the importance and appreciation of relationships and family. As we get older and we change, so do our morals and what’s important to us. This film embraces that. “Looking For Palladin” was a breath of fresh air. It deserves to be seen by the masses. And, hopefully, it will.

I caught up with Krakowski to discuss filmmaking with heart, intriguing plot, and superb characters.

Why this film, now in your life?

There are two reasons: The first reason, we are constantly hearing about studies that we, “the Baby Boomer Generation,” are an abandoned generation. We don’t go to the movies any more. Fox won’t even make any movies for “Baby Boomer” women any more because they don’t go to the movies on Fridays. We don’t go to the movies any more because there’s nothing out there that we like. We are still alive…We want something to reflect upon. I didn’t find anything like that. I wanted to make something for us. I always say, “Look into yourself.”

I sort of feel responsible for this. I was part of the generation who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s who destroyed the structure of the family. Recently, I had a student who didn’t live with either of their parents any more. There were so many divorces and moves that they eventually got tired of it all. So one day they decided to just stay. Eventually they lived with no one who was even was related to them. We screwed up. I wanted to make something that reflected upon those who were left behind.

The second reason: in 1986 I moved to a small Hamlet of Katonah, New York. We started a breakfast club in a small coffee shop. It was in a Parisian style; good coffee, small breakfast, and good talk. We were all artists: filmmakers, painters, musicians, etc. We had jobs that involved us being alone for long periods of time. The coffee shop was our human contact.

This human contact became my support group when my wife got sick. Once a friend of the group, a complete stranger to me found out that my wife was sick. He prepared a full meal for us and when I went to pick it up he refused to take any money. They were just that kind of people. I really wanted to pay tribute to friendship and the feeling of a small community.

Tell us about how you got to shoot in Antigua, Guatemala?

We originally intended on shooting it in the actual coffee shop in Katonah, New York. It just happens that years earlier the movie “Fatal Attraction” was shot in that town. Since then, the town had ordinances against shooting for more than three days. In retrospect, it was the best thing for the movie. Why would a Hollywood actor who is trying to get away from the people who would know him live in one of the most affluent towns in the country? It just didn’t make much sense.

The last film produced [in Guatemala] by an outsider was in 1938. Antigua, Guatemala is a very diverse culture with 47 language schools. It’s very well preserved, and its 17th-century Spanish architecture is untouched. They hide all the electric and phone lines. Aside from its beauty, our country tends to have a selective memory with Guatemala. Everyone keeps bringing back the death squads in 1986. Since then, the country has suffered tremendously.

How did you end up in Guatemala?

A lot of my students come from other countries. They come here and try to do subjects that are familiar with Americans and not their cultures. They don’t have a chance. They fail. I tell them to use issues that are close to them. Even if they have to go back to their own country to shoot it. I always tell them if they needed my help that I would come to wherever they are and help them.

One of my students was shooting in Antigua, Guatemala. So I went to assist him. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life. I said to myself, “This is where we should shoot.” Other places had offered us money to shoot in their countries, but they didn’t look like this. So we contacted some young producers in Guatemala. One told me, “You can do anything here” – he was trying to take us for a ride. I told him how much [money] we actually had. For some reason he thought we had plenty of money and were holding out on him.

A woman by the name of Anna Smith caught on with the idea. She took it to the Administration of Culture. They then took us to the Antigua business owners. The business owners were very receptive and divided us with their services. They covered almost all of our expenses, food, logging, etc. And all at zero cost to us. They took total care of us. They were very inviting. But that’s how these small communities are.

We tried shooting in several different places before Antigua. But we couldn’t find all the locations in a close proximity. They would have a cafe, but no shoemaker. A shoemaker, but no barbershop. When we walked into the café in Antigua, I said, “This is it.” I grew up with a Mexican and Latin art influence. When I walked in the Café it looked like a Mural for it. And, there was a barber next to the cafe. And a shoemaker next to barber, and etc. The town was built for this movie. Everything was basically with in one block of each other.

What did you love about making this film?

I loved that it was a humanist project. It was very personal to me. For once in my life I didn’t have a studio looking over my shoulder. Once, I was doing this Jewish film where we got permission to shoot in the real Auschwitz. In order to get permission I had to agree to cut one scene that made them look bad. In this scene, I was trying to show that the problem wasn’t just one thing; the problem was the entire world. It was a very important scene to the movie. It ended up on the cutting floor. This film was never about money. It was about creating a film of deeper meaning…That’s important to me.

How is the film being received?

When we finished the film we went all over the world to see how it would be received. We took the film to Israel, Poland, Guatemala, and just about everywhere else in the world. We handed out scorecards to gauge the reactions. Here’s what we got: Forty-five plus age were generally 8.5 to 9 in every country. Younger in the states was a 6.5, younger in Europe was a 7.5, and in Katonah 8 for the younger.

Why did we try to get such a broad consensus from around the world?

Because ten years ago the US made up for 2/3 of the world’s spending. Now it’s only 1/3. But, for some reason people still wait to see how it is received by the US for some reason. I know studios like the film, but they keep saying, “Let’s wait and see how it opens.” It’s like bunch of vultures waiting for someone to jump.
Right now we’re playing in ten theatres: NY, LA, NJ, etc. Wherever I seem to go people keep asking for it. I’ve talked to people who have seen it half a dozen times in the theatres. This film really seems to hit the nerve.

Don’t let the economy dictate the quality of films you see. Go support your local Indie Film scene. Find “Looking for Palladin” in select theatres near you. Or go to the film’s site to find out more information on the film.




Posted on November 23, 2009 in Interviews by
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