The film, a visceral account of Ukrainian families trying to make it to safety across the Polish border after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, will get a U.S. theatrical release and an Oscar push for Best Documentary Film.
Hamela and producer Piotr Grawender are currently in Amsterdam for the Dutch premiere of In the Rearview at IDFA. The film is playing in the Best of Fests section, which is reserved for what the festival considers to be the best documentaries of the year. In the Rearview also has made the IDA shortlist of the 2023’s best nonfiction films.
When we spoke with Hamela at the Cannes Film Festival, he explained that much of Polish society mobilized to aid Ukrainians after Russia’s brutal and unprovoked attack. Hamela was no exception; he raised money to buy a van and began transporting people of all ages from Ukraine to Poland and out of the zone of Russian bombing. A few weeks into his emergency effort, he decided to film the journeys by setting up a camera inside the van. It recorded while he drove.
“There were so many questions at the beginning [of the filming process], starting from the question if this is not going to destroy the intimacy of the whole situation of what I was witnessing,” Hamela told us, “and going to all the moral questions of how to shoot people in such a fragile moment of their lives.”
In the Rearview premiered at the Millennium Docs Against Gravity festival in Poland in mid-May, going from thee to Cannes, where it played in the festival’s ACID sidebar. Hamela said it was important to him that viewers identify with the beleaguered people on screen.
“I want the audience to see that these people have exactly the same lives as we do,” he said. “It’s their ordinary lives. They have pets, they have cows, they quarrel with their wives. They have kids who want to go for vacation to the sea. And they have to lie to them [because of the war] or promise them things, promises they cannot keep,” he says. “This happens very often when we see documentaries about atrocities — we get very quickly disassociated from what we’re seeing because it’s too much. We can’t take it anymore. And this is what I wanted to avoid.”
Film Movement President Michael Rosenberg said in a statement, “We are proud to bring this intimate, yet powerful and devastating film to U.S. audiences, reminding us all of the human perspective of a war which continues to rage.”
In the Rearview has also been acquired by Filmin in Spain and Portugal, VG in Norway, Fabula in Turkey, and PCCW in Hong Kong. The film was released in France last week by New Story. It will have its Polish theatrical release on November 24.
Cinephil is representing the worldwide rights for the film and negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers with Michael Rosenberg at Film Movement. The film is produced by Piotr Grawender (Affinity Cine), Maciek Hamela (Pemplum), Jean-Marie Gigon (SaNoSi Productions), and Anna Palenchuk (435 FILMS).