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ONCE MY MOTHER

Year: 2013

Classification: PG

Runtime: 75 min

Produced In: Australia

Directed By: Sophia Turkiewicz

Produced By: Rod Freedman

Language: English and English subtitles

Website: www.oncemymother.com

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WINNER! United Nations Association of Australia Media Award (TV Documentary category), October 2015.

Abandoned in an Adelaide orphanage at the age of seven, Sophia feels betrayed by her mother, Helen. In early adulthood, Sophia still feels angry and resentful. Her mother is now married with two more children. Sophia rejects her new family and refuses contact with her mother.

In her twenties, Sophia is now a filmmaker living in far away Sydney, embracing her independence but deep down, blaming her mother when things go wrong in her life. Yet Sophia finds herself drawn back to her mother’s life, using Helen’s stories as inspiration for her films but disguising them as fiction.

Thirty years on, Helen has dementia. Sophia starts to question their deeply troubled relationship. She digs out an unfinished documentary film about Helen that she’d started as a film student years before and finds herself compelled to finish it.

Returning to her mother’s former homeland of Eastern Poland in what is now Ukraine, Sophia begins to trace her mother’s traumatic childhood. Orphaned as a young girl, Helen grows up in a rural Polish village. As an adolescent, she’s illiterate and homeless, somehow surviving on the streets.

As Sophia re-examines her mother’s life, she discovers the historical truth behind Helen’s deportation to a Siberian gulag. Helen was one of almost two million Poles who were incarcerated in Russian gulags during World War Two. The truth behind this little known episode of history reveals a dark story of betrayal involving Stalin and the Allies.

Miraculously given their freedom, Helen is part of a vast exodus of Poles who travel from Russia with no food or organised transport. Over months, they trek thousands of miles to Uzbekistan and eventually, freedom in Persia. Most of the Poles perish on this treacherous journey. Helen is one of the few survivors and she’s sent to a Polish refugee camp in Lusaka, Africa. Here she meets Valdiero, the love of her life, an Italian prisonerof-war who becomes Sophia’s father.

Finally, a decade after leaving Poland, Helen and her baby daughter arrive in Australia as refugees. Not long afterwards, she abandons Sophia in an orphanage.

With growing insight, Sophia starts to re-assess the troubled relationship with her mother. But as Helen slips out of reach, Sophia must confront her own demons. Did she ever truly know this woman who became her mother? Does she have it in her heart to forgive her? And is it too late?
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DVD EXTRAS: Interviews with the director and producer enhance the main content and expand on the production story and the political and historical background.
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INTERNATIONAL AWARDS

  • AUDIENCE AWARD, Krakow Film Festival, Poland
  • TIME OF HISTORY AWARD, Valladolid International Film Festival, Spain
  • PRESIDENT’S AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING HUMAN VALUES, 26th Polish Film Festival in America, Chicago
  • SPECIAL AWARD ‘Niepokorni, Niezlomni, Wiekleci’ Film Festival Gdynia, Poland
  • PRIZE, 'Cinema With A Soul', Warsaw
  • BEST NON-FEATURE FILM, Ann Arbor Polish Film Festival, USA
  • FINALIST, FIPA Festival Biarritz, In Competition

AUSTRALIAN AWARDS

  • BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY, Australian Directors Guild Awards
  • AUDIENCE AWARD BEST DOCUMENTARY, Adelaide Film Festival
  • AUDIENCE AWARD BEST FILM, Canberra International Film Festival
  • BEST MUSIC IN DOCUMENTARY, CEZARY SKUBISZEWSKI, Australian Screen Music Awards
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY BIOGRAPHY, ATOM Awards
  • BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY Nomination, AACTA Awards
  • BEST SOUND Nomination, AACTA Awards
  • BEST EDITING DOCUMENTARY Nomination, Australian Screen Editors Guild
  • FINALIST Sydney Film Festival Documentary Competition

FESTIVALS

  • Australia: Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney & Launceston & Caloundra Film Festivals
  • FIPA Festival, Biarritz, France
  • Valladolid International Film Festival, Spain
  • Krakow Film Festival, Poland
  • ‘Niepokorni, Niezlomni, Wiekleci’ Film Festival, Gdynia, Poland
  • 'Generations Remember' Kresy Siberia Conference, Warsaw
  • Cinema With A Soul Festival, Warsaw
  • Edmonton International Film Festival, Canada
  • Festival Internacional de Televisao de Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • 16th Rencontres Internationales du Cinéma des Antipodes, St Tropez France
  • Kansas International Film Festival USA
  • Polish Film Festival in America, Chicago USA
  • Seattle Polish Film Festival USA
  • Ann Arbor Polish Film Festival USA
  • Rhode Island International Film Festival USA
  • Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival USA

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