In Once My Mother writer / director Sophia Turkiewicz investigates why her Polish mother abandoned her and uncovers the truth behind her mother’s wartime escape from a Siberian gulag. Released earlier this year, it was awarded Best Documentary Feature at the Australian Directors Guild Awards.
But producer Rod Freedman has criticised the timeslot it has been given of 10:20pm Sunday October 26th on ABC. In such a late night timeslot it also warrants no dedicated support from ABC TV Publicity.
Freedman has told TV Tonight he was unhappy with the treatment by the ABC.
“I was delighted when ABC TV agreed to screen the feature version, which has won five Australian and two international awards, rather then the one hour version originally contracted.
“However, it’s frustrating that an Australian documentary with critical acclaim and proven audience response from a rare, successful national cinema release is now relegated to a late night Sunday slot at 10.20pm.
“We pleaded with ABC to screen at 9.30pm, to no avail. Worse, this time slot means ABC provides no publicity or promo. Our national broadcaster should be showcasing significant Australian stories, rather than prioritising UK serials.
“We know there’s an audience from our screenings across the country, but ABC is not backing one-off docos which are directly within what used to be their charter. On behalf of our team and other Australian documentary filmmakers, I’m angry and disappointed at losing the opportunity to reach a wider audience.”
ABC scheduling doesn’t often screen feature-length content in a primetime slot on its primary channel, although it has made exceptions for populist fare such as Jack Irish, The Broken Shore, Doctor Who, Carlotta, Paper Giants etc. Long-form docos tend to get the later Sunday slot such as Tempest at the Drop-In or shift to ABC2.
A spokesperson for ABC told TV Tonight Channel Controller Brendan Dahill was standing by his scheduling of the doco.
“Brendan is happy with the slot that has been chosen for the show and the context and the environment in which it will be played played. And of course it will be available to view in full and for free on iview for 14 days after its premiere screening on ABC at whatever time viewers choose and is most convenient for them,” they said.
When Australian filmmaker Sophia Turkiewicz (Silver City) was seven years old, her Polish mother, Helen, abandoned her in an Adelaide orphanage. Sophia never forgot this maternal act of betrayal. Now in middle age, and with her mother in her twilight years, Sophia begins to examine her troubled relationship with Helen. She discovers the miraculous story of Helen’s life – an orphaned childhood on the streets of Poland, a wartime escape from a Siberian gulag and an enforced march of thousands of kilometres across a war-torn Eastern Europe to the shores of the Caspian Sea in Persia, before finding a peace of sorts in refugee camps first in Africa and then Australia. With Helen sliding into dementia, 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 for her abandonment? And is it too late?
‘An epic story of survival told against a backdrop of war and its aftermath. With consummate skill, Sophia Turkiewicz weaves the personal with the historical, giving depth and meaning to both.’
‘It is inspiring to see something made with passion directly from the heart. Sophia’s mother’s story is amazing almost beyond belief and the interweaving of her saga with Sophia’s own story very deft, revealing and fascinating. It’s a rare human story told with compassion and insight. She will touch people all over the world with this film.’
10:20pm Sunday October 26th ABC.