This is an open letter to the producers and distributors of the film Prime Time, distributed also to the main Polish newspapers shortly before the premiere of this movie on Polish Netflix mid April 2021.
My name is Adrian M (last name for the editors’ information). I am writing to you regarding the release of the film Prime Time directed by Jakub Piątek, produced by Watchout Studio, TVN Film, PISF, KBF, distributed by Next Film – a company owned by the Agora Group – promoted by Gazeta Wyborcza, and scheduled to release on Polish Netflix on 14.04.21.
Mr. Piątek’s film tells the story of the events that took place in Poland on September 21, 2003, of which, unfortunately, I was the perpetrator. It was me who broke into the TVP building on Woronicza street that day, taking hostage and demanding to enter on air.
I hereby declare: I did not cooperate in the production of this film and I did not give my consent for this production.
In May 2018, I received an email from Mr. Jakub Piątek, in which he informed me about his film-making plans, asking me to work with him. I refused. At the same time, I would like to make it very clear that Mr. Piątek was explicitly explained that any attempt to tell that story without my consent would simply violate my personal rights, specifically those related to my mental illness, which was the direct cause of the TVP incident. I was ill and thoroughly diagnosed long before the event. Moreover, Mr. Piątek was also told that returning to that very complicated story could cause unpredictable consequences also for third parties. He also heard that for all these years we consistently and with the whole family rejected all offers to bring this story to the screen. We did our best to make Mr. Piątek aware of how unwanted such a production is and how dangerous repercussions of such a film could be.
Mr. Jakub Piątek simply ignored our requests and you, producers and distributors, helped him make this horrible film.
I learned about the film and its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival from a friend, who in January this year sent me a link to the article “18 years ago he entered the TVP studio with a gun. He took hostages” on the film.wp.pl More than ¾ of the content of this text is directly dedicated to my person and the incident in which I participated, at the end the author of the text clearly states that the story about me became the inspiration for the film Prime Time. Comments under this text are terrifying, here are some examples (without giving nicknames, original spelling):
– “today same thing should be done only better to shoot right away”.
– “I remember how the whole tenement house was cheering him to shoot them all there.”
– “Today such an action would be welcome, although with a different ending – maybe normality would return”
– “It’s a pity that today there are no such people. And preferably at 19.30”
Below is a link to the article:
In addition to such horrible content that confirms the rightness of 18 years of silence and not bringing this matter up, there are quite a few comments from people in my hometown who remember my story, know me and recognize my family. There are also some that clearly state that such films should not be made.
I saw the film during the second day of its screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Unfortunately, it turned out to be something different than what its creators and producers had announced in numerous interviews. It is not a universal story about rebellion inspired by many similar cases from all over the world, it is a perfidious attempt to reconstruct the incident in which I took part, and the worst thing is that the filmmakers actually tried to create my psychological portrait and answer the most pressing question – what was the reason for my entering the TVP that day. Since I never spoke publicly on this subject, no one ever found out what exactly was driving me back then. In the film Mr Piątek and Mr Czapski (authors of the screenplay) decided to fantasize about it and in their version the reason why Sebastian entered TVP was the rejection by his tyrant father, who left his family for another woman and psychologically abused his son. Because this film effectively mixes: the truth, media reports about my case with the fantasy of the creators to make this production work, there is a real risk that people who know us will perceive the fictional elements of the story as the truth, thinking that it was all because of my father. Film’s transposition into the lives of real people is visible to the naked eye. It is already happening. I would like to point out that I am already receiving clear messages from people in our town who think that I took part in the production. Local newspapers and portals reported on the front pages about the film based on a real event from 2003. This film, even before its Polish premiere, caused consequences in our lives, and I dread to think what reactions it will cause after its release. The image of my father, a man widely known in our small town, who worked hard all his life for his reputation, will be destroyed in one day by this cruel fantasy. I ask you right now: how will you try to fix it?
In December, our beloved father suffered a brain stem stroke. He survived, but with half his body paralyzed, he ended up in the hospital where he was infected with COVID after 2 weeks. Instead of a rehabilitation unit, he ended up in another COVID hospital. The news of the premiere of the film left us in such a situation: half of my father’s body was paralyzed after a stroke, he had a coronavirus infection and 30% of his lungs were infected with covid lesions and pneumonia. Because of my father’s condition, I had to keep the news of the film’s release from him. Given his condition, he simply would not survive it.
Our father spoke personally with Mr. Piątek in 2018, patiently explaining to him all the delicate aspects of revisiting the events of 2003. Today, those warnings take on special meaning, and that speaks all the worse for the makers of this film.
Times are extremely difficult, and there are a lot of desperate people now who, instead of inspiration to take matters into their own hands, need support and assurances of a better future, hope to improve their lives and get out of troubles that now may seem to be unsolvable.
I was in that studio. It was me who provoked the whole situation, without which Mr. Piątek would not have had the material he simply stole – yes, I use this word deliberately, Mr. Piątek took what did not belong to him. Against my will. This is an understatement, Mr Jakub Piątek did much more. Only I know exactly how much he stole and what damage he did. I will write about all this on my blog.
This film was also produced partly with taxpayers’ money. Roughly half of the budget of Prime Time (the total is 1 million euros) comes from the pockets of Polish women and men. It is my civic duty to tell people how their money was spent and to make them aware that I didn’t see a single zloty of it. Watchout Studio, TVN, Agora SA, PISF, the Krakow Festival Office, the distributors, and all the filmmakers – none of you, in the 2.5 years of production of this film, bothered to reach out to me and ask if I even consent to this film and in such a version. That’s what a human being means to you. Or am I wrong? Let’s check with a quick example…
The producers of Watchout Studio have obtained permission from the family of professor Religa to make a biographical film about him – Gods. There is information about it on the PISF website. Of course, there is no comparison between me and Professor Religa. Professor Religa’s achievements are extremely noble. What am I compared to such a person? A sick criminal whom the court decided to isolate from the society and send for compulsory therapy. Therefore, one can say that Professor Religa is at the very top of the social ladder in terms of his work and achievements. I, on the other hand, found myself at the bottom of this hierarchy. In 2003 I actually fell off the ladder to the very bottom. Only I and my family, my closest friends, know what such a fall looks like and what its consequences are. Only I know what its causes were. At what stage of this fall, or just after it, did I cease to be a human being or became one a little less than Professor Religa was? At what point was my human rights taken away from me? I don’t recall any court ever telling me that from a given moment on, I am an inferior human being or no human being at all. Do we have two different categories of people and humanity? Do we have two constitutions in Poland, for two different categories of citizens: the better and the worse, the distinguished and the excluded? I understand that the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, in whose defense you so bravely stand every day, guarantees the rights of others, but not me, is this so? I assure everyone: you do not have to make me aware that on that day I excluded myself from society. I understood it very well the moment the officers of the Bureau of Anti-Terrorist Operations of the National Police Headquarters of the elite unit from the Mostowski Palace decided to vent their frustrations on me after an incompetent action just after I released Mr Tomasz and gave up, throwing away an already harmless, unloaded gas pistol. If anyone knowingly and deliberately committed a crime that day in the TVP building, it was not me but the police officers who abused their authority. They were later rewarded for this, also financially. But it was not as Mr Piątek showed, it was ‘a bit’ different. Ironically, the makers of the film Prime Time are now counting on awards, recognition and applause. Same pattern.
The consent of an eminent and distinguished professor, doctor or his family to make a film about him seems to be necessary, doesn’t it? But not the consent of a crazy patient? A sick, drug-addicted criminal can be used in this way, because what? Because he has no rights? Where is my constitution, since the Polish Constitution includes the rights of others, but not mine?
And this is a quote from an article with the statement of my then lawyer, which appeared in Gazeta Wyborcza:
October 7, 2003 | 00:00 Warsaw Wyborcza:
“- I know that Adrian feels remorse. He didn’t want to become a ‘superstar’ either. Neither I nor his parents want him to become a role model for anyone.”
That’s the way it was for 18 years and that’s the way it should continue to be.
In a conversation with Mr. Piątek in 2018, our father told him a story that only few know about but several people could confirm. When the 2003 case was still quite fresh we were contacted by Andrzej Wajda’s studio, which was interested in making a film about me and that incident. The offer was tempting. Only one word and Andrzej Wajda himself would make a film about my story. But Andrzej Wajda heard a negative answer. He understood how delicate the matter was and, above all, what the consequences of filming it could be and he respected our mutual decision. We hoped, therefore, that Mr. Piątek, hearing about Wajda dropping the subject, would do the same. Who, if not a master, would be a guide for a student? Mr. Piątek knew it, but during the production of Prime Time he was more concerned with international fame, the premiere at a famous festival, the carbon footprint during the filming, recycling of costumes and the set design, than with people’s personal rights and their lives, which he simply broke into.
What is your hierarchy of values? What are those ideals that you hide behind every day? What are human rights for you, the rights of the individual? You have decided to turn my story into a vulgar commercial product that can be sold on Netflix ready for consumption by millions of people around the world. This is exactly what you are participating in. Who are you really? Defenders of the Polish Constitution? Are these ideals just for show for the people you want to sell your newspaper, information and other products that happen to be in demand?
I don’t live in Poland, I’m absorbed by work and my duties, but I will find time for a legal battle. Before that happens, let the film flow through optical cables to the homes of Polish women and men (by the way, people already paid for this film once, and now Netflix makes them pay again), let them watch it against my and my family’s will. Go ahead, lynch our father. May the wish of Mr. Jakub Piątek, which he made clear in an interview with Polish Radio, come true:
”The film is an exercise in empathy, by which we can get a sneak peek at others’ lives, and why not try to get into the head or get into the emotionality of someone who, driven to the wall, grabs a gun and enters a television studio and takes hostages.”
It was not my wish to have anyone do an ‘exercise in empathy’ on me or my family, and regarding getting inside my head, I will use the example of someone in Mr. Piątek’s industry, although as we already know, Mr. Piątek does a poor job of following professional authority figures.
Marty Feldman, a brilliant British actor, comedian and screenwriter, in a documentary Six Degrees of Separation produced by the BBC said ”everything I have is in my head, it belongs only to me and the idea is to keep people out of it unless you invite them there yourself”.
Both the formula of a feature film and the artistic vision (change of name, additional characters, making the plot more interesting to add some drama to the story) do not eliminate the responsibility for the infringement of personal rights, they do not change the fact that the film refers to only one event and despite all the efforts I and my family are still identified. The duo Piątek-Czapski even winks at the audience, suggesting exactly which event and perpetrator they are referring to – the particular one involving me. I can show exact scenes. And I will do so on my blog before I take legal action.
You did not have my permission to produce this film from the very beginning, nor do you have my permission to distribute it.
Since 2003, for the entire 18 years following the incident, I never had any intention of making a single penny out of it, I never wanted any films, interviews, or reports. I never wanted to make money on this tragedy. Today, the intentions of profit, sensation, and publicity are on the side of Agora SA, TVN Film, Watchout Studio, Mr. Czapski, Razowski, the director Jakub Piątek, and the people who worked with him. That’s the difference between us.
At the end, I would like to add the following words:
Mr. Tomasz, I apologize to you most sincerely, I was simply ill at the time and this is the only explanation for that traumatic event. I am very sorry and ashamed for what I did to you. At the same time, I apologize to all the other people I frightened that day. I deeply regret that I could not control myself.