Following a buzzed-about world premiere at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival on the Piazza Grande last month, a new festival poster has been released for FALLING STARS, Richard Karpalaand Gabriel Bienczycki’s feature directorial debut, ahead of its North American premiere at Austin’s Fantastic Fest later this month. The American folk-horror witch drama is directed and produced by Karpala and Bienczycki. In addition to these credits, Karpala wrote and edited and Bienczycki lensed the feature, which was described by Locarno’s artistic director Giona A. Nazzaro as “Monte Hellman doing The Blair Witch Project.”
Offering a uniquely bold mix of tones and genres — and “a touch of Shirley Jackson” (Sight and Sound) — the film is set in the American West on the night of the first harvest as three brothers (Rene Leech,Shaun Duke Jr., Andrew Gabriel) set out to see a dead witch buried by their friend. When they accidentally desecrate the body, they learn the only way to stop a curse on their family is to burn it before sunrise.
“This story deals in many ways with the costs of coming-of-age,” said the Polish-American directors in a co-statement to Locarno Film Festival. “To leave the shelter of home and venture off into the unknown under the burden of youthful free will without a grasp of the consequences.”
Richard Karpala’s screenwriting feature debut, AMOK (2017, dir. Kasia Adamik), premiered at the Edinburgh Intl Film Festival and his work in shorts includes the sci-fi thriller IRIS (2015), which premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival and was acquired for the horror anthology GALAXY OF HORRORS (2017), MURDERABILIAC (2019), which premiered at Beyond Fest, and PSYCHOS (2021), which premiered at Fantastic Fest.
An experienced cinematographer, Gabriel Bienczycki’s recent credits include the Tribeca selection feature FREEDIA GOT A GUN (dir. Chris McKim), Emmy-winning feature OUT OF IRAQ (dir. Chris McKim), gangster comedy MAYDAY (dir. Sam Akina), and the Tribeca and Berlinale official selection ALL ON A MARDI GRAS DAY (dir. Michal Pietrzyk), now streaming at The New Yorker.
Prior to premiering, FALLING STARS was chosen to be part of the 2022 US in Progress showcase at the American Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland and presented in the 2022 Frontières Platform in Cannes as part of the Buyer’s Showcase. XYZ Films and Raven Banner share sales rights on the title, handling North American and International, respectively.