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‘Joanna’ Oscar-nominated filmmaker Aneta Kopacz' road to Oscars

I first met Aneta Kopacz at the Palm Springs International Short Fest, as it marked the North American debut of her first professional film named “Joanna.” The film is a 45 minute short documentary that tells the story of a young mother and wife that has a terminal disease. It focuses on her day to day life. This powerful film does not spend its time about death and dying, yet it is a tribute to life and how precious it really is.

Aneta was astute enough to bring to powerhouse filmmakers to aid her in the completion of her film. She hired Lukasz Zal to be her cinematographer and “Finding Neverland” score writer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek to write the score for her film.

During the making of “Joanna,” Zal came to her to ask her to edit a three minute portion of film for him. He needed it to vie for a job for another Polish documentary film called “Ida.” This helped Zal get the job to shoot “Ida” with cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski.

At our first interview I was so impressed with Aneta’s style as a director and I knew that her talent was so unique that her film deserved more attention – even perhaps Oscar attention. But Aneta was seeing life as we all do - the reality of things. She told me that this film was most likely her first and last film. She just didn't know if she could secure funding for another film and that she needed steady employment. My heart sunk.

Aneta also told me that she had been warned in Poland that Americans would not understand her film. It was far too understated to be noticed by Americans. Well at that time I knew they were wrong – at least for me. It was the understated quality about “Joanna” that made the film so powerful.

“Joanna” also impressed the judges at Short Fest. She won two awards – one in her category and one overall prize. But unfortunately, neither prize garnered her Oscar contention.

Knowing that her film had not received Oscar contention, the film was submitted by Aneta for Oscar contention, and not soon after that she found out that her film, “Joanna,” was on theOscars’ short list.

In January all the Polish filmmakers that had been shortlisted gathered together in the office belonging to the director of the Polish Film Institute to watch the nominations together. Along with Aneta, were the filmmakers for “Ida,” including her cinematographer Lukasz Zal, filmmakers Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki for the short documentary “Our Curse," and the costume designer Anna B. Sheppard from “Maleficent.”

They gathered around a television watching CNN to watch the nominations. But as the time for the nomination came and went they realized that CNN was not broadcast the nominations. The phone rang and someone screamed, “Joanna has it.”

Aneta continues to tell the story, “Then I screamed. But we didn't have any confirmation. Then we all starting searching the internet and finally we found the broadcast of the nominations. Suddenly we suddenly realized that all of us had been nomination. Even Lukasz was nominated for his beautiful cinematography of ‘Ida.’ Everyone started screaming. I started screening, I was so happy. It was true, we all got nominations. The room was really small. Everybody was screaming. There was so much excitement.”

Life has been extremely busy for Aneta since her nomination. She is here in Los Angeles for a month during the Oscar festivities. Along with her is her husband and her three-year-old daughter. Although she is extremely happy to be an Oscar nominee there are a few drawbacks.

“My daughter everyday asks me if we can spend time together and go to the beach. She doesn't understand why I am so busy. It has me crying everyday when I have to leave her.”

Along with screenings and the plethora of Oscar functions, Aneta has also been having a lot of fun. She got her dress in Poland. It’s black and according to Aneta is a mix between something Audrey Hepburn would wear and a little bit of French styling mixed in, “It’s a simple dress.”

Aneta is not focused on who will win in her category come Oscar Sunday, “Joanna will always be an Oscar-nominated film and this way I will always be a winner.”

And she is absolutely right. She has already started to get other work, which has eased my fear that she would never make another movie again.

“And if I win an Oscar, I don’t want to think about it because my daughter will have to wait longer to go to the beach,” says Aneta.

She’s so honored to hear reactions from other filmmakers that have watched her film. And for me, I am hoping that they will vote for her film to win as well. The only person truly hoping she doesn't win is a little girl, far from home that just wants to spend time with her mommy and go to the beach. I am sure when she has grow-up, she will look upon this time with great joy and pride for her mother is truly a gifted storyteller.

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