Mandy Patinkin and Lena Dunham have joined German filmmaker Julia von Heinz’s next film, “Iron Box,” about a New York businesswoman who decides to take her aging father back to his native Poland, where she hopes to explore her Jewish roots.
In an interview with Variety during last year’s Venice Film Festival following the premiere of her latest pic, “And Tomorrow the Entire World,” von Heinz said she planned to send Patinkin and Dunham the script and expressed hope that they would do the film, an adaption of Australian writer Lily Brett’s bestselling novel “Too Many Men.”
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The article led to meetings between von Heinz and Patinkin and Dunham.
Von Heinz also shared her current film with the actors. The critically acclaimed pic, about an idealistic student who joins an Antifa collective to fight the fascist menace of neo-Nazism spreading across Germany, has been selected to represent the country in the Oscars’ best international feature film category. The pic is set to premiere on Netflix in April.
“First I watched her film ‘And Tomorrow the Entire World’ and I knew instantly I was in the hands of a true filmmaker,” Patinkin said in a statement. “She tells a riveting story in every frame and the performances are as truthful as I could ever wish for.
“Then we had a FaceTime call; she was full of humility, she was kind — two qualities that I long to be around. Then she sent me many books to read and an ancient language to begin learning. We were off to the races.”
Dunham added: “Julia’s film struck a deep chord in me both because of its radicalism and its core value of empathy. I knew I wanted to go wherever she was taking me, and the fact that she’s taking me further into an exploration of what it means to be Jewish and the stories we carry forward as daughters of trauma is deeply moving to me. Mandy Patinkin is, of course, the icing on the genius cake.”
Set in 1990, right after the fall of the Berlin Wall, “Iron Box” follows Ruth Rothwax, a successful New York businesswoman who insists on taking her father on a trip to the country he fled as a young Holocaust survivor. While he agrees to accompany her, “he still doesn’t want to go where it hurts,” explained producer Fabian Gasmia. Despite the serious subject, Gasmia says there is also a lot of comedy in the story. “Who would think that? But it’s actually a hilarious screenplay in some parts; other parts make you cry.”
“Iron Box” is part of von Heinz’s “Aftermath Trilogy,” which examines the legacy of Germany’s Nazi past in three very different films.
“We still struggle with the Holocaust and the trauma passes on to the next generation. ‘Hanna’s Journey’ was my first film about it – a third generation love story between a German girl and an Israeli. ‘And Tomorrow the Entire World’ was about the even younger ones, the fourth generation, who still feel responsible and have to act. They have to stand up if far-right voices rise up again. And ‘Iron Box’ is the third and last part of this trilogy. It’s the second generation, and they have a huge trauma.”
Von Heinz points out that many people whose parents survived the war suffered from the fact that they were never able to talk to them about their experiences.
“They have to find out everything by themselves, and that’s what ‘Iron Box’ is about. It’s also a story that we have in my family. It’s a traumatized generation. But we’re not telling a story that is dark and sad. Like ‘Hanna’s Journey,’ and hopefully also ‘And Tomorrow the Entire World,’ it will be emotional and entertaining.”
Gasmia added: “At its core, it’s a father-daughter relationship. Besides all the issues that a father and daughter can have, here the conflict is that the father who survived in Poland as a Jew cannot talk about it at all.”
The film is now moving into the financing stage, according to Gasmia. Produced by Berlin-based Seven Elephants, the company Gasmia and von Heinz run with directors Erik Schmitt and David Wnendt, the film will be set up as a European co-production with the possible involvement of a U.S. co-producer. The team plans to shoot “Iron Box” on location in Poland next year.
Patinkin’s recent works have included the hit spy series “Homeland” and Fernando Trueba’s Spanish comedy “The Queen of Spain.” With an eclectic career spanning more than 40 years, Patinkin also counts among his many credits “Criminal Minds,” “Chicago Hope” and his iconic roles as Inigo Montoya in Rob Reiner’s classic, “The Princess Bride,” and Che Guevara in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Broadway production of “Evita.”
Dunham, the creator, writer and star of the hit HBO series “Girls,” has likewise served as writer, director and producer on such shows as HBO and BBC’s “Industry” and HBO’s “Camping.” She also recently appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.” Via her Good Thing Going banner, Dunham is currently executive producing the HBO Max series “Generation” and directing her feature length medieval coming-of-age comedy “Catherine Called Birdy” for Working Title.
Regional German funder Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the German-Polish Film Fund and Creative Europe supported the development of “Iron Box.”
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