Jessica Woodworth, Belgian-American filmmaker based in Belgium, has finished a new and ambitious film, “LUKA.” It’s an adaptation of the Kafkaesque novel “Il deserto dei Tartari” (1940), a.k.a. “The Desert of the Tartars” and “The Tartar Steppe,” written by Italian author Dino Buzzati. She first encountered the novel when studying for a degree in Italian literature; she knew right away that the story would be set in a post-apocalyptic future, and that she’d shoot it in black and white.
Geraldine Chaplin (b. 1944) and Dutch actor Jonas Smulders (b. 1994) star in the English-language film about Luka, a young and ambitious soldier, who embeds himself in the legendary Fort Kairos where heroic warriors, under the command of the General, played by Chaplin, defend the remains of civilization. His hopes to serve as an elite sniper are crushed when he is assigned to maintenance and must submit to the code of Kairos: obedience, endurance, sacrifice. As he rises through the ranks, Luka finds joy and strength in friendships with Konstantin (played by Samvel Tadevossian), an enigmatic radar engineer, and Geronimo (Django Schrevens), a light-hearted private.
Screen Daily wrote in its January 29, 2023, film review that the film is ‘elevated by spectacular settings and a magnetic supporting turn by iconic veteran Geraldine Chaplin.’ The International Cinephile Society concludes its review that ‘a uniformly strong cast of character actors like Jan Bijvoet and Sam Louwyck, and particularly the actors portraying those in charge, turn “Luka” into a bizarre but beautiful meditative film about the fight between dogma and truth and perhaps a more poignant commentary on the stasis of Western society than one might think at first.’
“LUKA” (2023, trailer)
Only one day after the film’s world premiere in the Big Screen Competition at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, “LUKA” was presented at the Ostend Film Festival in Belgium with Ms. Woodworth and her cast. Feature image: Sam Louwyck, Bruno Georis, Jonas Smulders, Geraldine Chaplin, Jessica Woodworth, Samvel Tadevossian. “Luka” marks Ms. Woodworth’s first solo directing credit since “The Virgin Diaries” (2002), her feature debut.
“LUKA“ is a Belgian-Italian-Dutch-Bulgarian coproduction in association with Armenia, and is produced by Peter Brosens for Bo Films; Mr. Brosens also co-directed all of Ms. Woodworth’s other features. The film will be released in Belgium and the Netherlands in September by De Filmfreak. By the time the film is available in other territories, interviews with Ms. Woodworth and actors Geraldine Chaplin and Jonas Smulders, all conducted at the Ostend Film Festival, will be published. International sales are handled by Films Boutique.
Yesterday the screening of the film at the Ostend Film Festival was preceeded by a red carpet ceremony.