09/2003 – Richard Kwietniowski

Richard Kwietniowski

PGF honors playwright and filmmaker Richard Kwietniowski as its person of the month for September 2003. We honor Mr. Kwietniowski not only for his movie releases and successes (Owning Mahoney – 2003 and Love and Death on Long Island – 1997) but more so for the struggles he faced in getting quality independent films produced. His films evoke the reality of humanity in all its frailty. PGF focuses on the good we are all able to do when we share our humanity. Mr. Kwietniowski’s work helps us to share in his life and the lives of others through his lens.

The son of a Polish-born violinist, Richard Kwietniowski was born March 17, 1957 and raised in England but felt very much of an outsider, in part because of his homosexuality. After studying film at the University of Kent and the University of California, Berkeley, he began his career by making experimental shorts. His first, “Alfalfa” (1987), was a nine minute riff on language, offering an alternative alphabet keyed to gay slang (e.g., C is for Clone), and received attention at the 1988 Berlin Film Festival. Kwietniowski followed with “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” (1988), featuring Quentin Crisp in a modern-day rendering of Oscar Wilde’s courtroom speech about “the love that dare not speak its name” and “Flames of Passion” (1989), a gay twist on David Lean’s 1945 “Brief Encounter”, which received much festival exposure. Other short films include “Proust’s Favorite Fantasy” and “The Cost of Love” (both 1991) and the 22-minute “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” (1992), which explores the confluence of the gay and hearing-impaired communities.

Since reading Gilbert Adair’s novel “Love and Death on Long Island”, which echoes Thomas Mann’s classic “Death in Venice“, Kwietniowski had wanted to make a film based on the book. He wrote the screenplay adaptation of the first-person story about a reclusive British author who becomes obsessed with an American film star and teen heartthrob, and then spent over 18 months trying to find backing for the project. Companies in Italy, Canada and the UK out up the money and the director was able to land the two actors he wanted for the leads, John Hurt and Jason Priestley, both of whom delivered strong performances under his guidance. The modest, quirky comedy earned generally positive notices and grossed over $2.5 million at the US box-office. The film was a success with critics as well and won the Prix Pierrot for Best European First Feature at the Cannes Film Festival, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best First Film, and a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer in British Film.

His most recent release, Owning Mahoney (2003), was also based on a book, this time the true story of a bank manager whose gambling addiction led him to commit the largest single-handed bank fraud in Canadian history.

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