The road that led him to cinema was not typical. Fudakowski, born in London to Polish emigrants, didn’t go to film school, but graduated in economics at Cambridge and also received an MBA at the European Institute of Administration in Fontainenbleau in France. In an interview with Culture.pl he said:
As a young man I was already interested in cinema, but I wanted to have a normal job which would give me some financial stability. In my staid middle class environment, reliability and hard work were essential. The film industry seemed to be the last place where a stable job and a quiet life could be found.
After graduating he started working for the First National Bank of Chicago in the department responsible for film financing. “After some time I realized that it wasn't enough and that I would like to engage more in film production”, he says. He quit his job and opened his own production studio. He started with instructional films and videos, but later on turned also to feature films. Now his company produces feature films, movies for IMAX and documentaries.
In 1981 Peter, together with his wife Henrietta, went on a long trip through South America, which turned into a trip around the world that lasted more than a year. During this journey a photography series was created, which was later exhibited in London and in Zakopane.
As a producer he realized films such as Prowokator (Provocateur) by Krzysztof Lang, Ostatni wrzesień (The Last September) by Deborah Warner (with Zbigniew Preisner’s music and Sławomir Idziak’s photography), Piccadilly Jim by John McKay and the great comedy Keeping Mum by Niall Johnson, starring Rowan Atkinson and Maggie Smith. The breakthrough in Fudakowski’s career was the film Tsotsi directed in 2005 by Gavin Hood.
He met Hood in Cannes after a screening of one of the South African director’s films, but they started their collaboration only a few years later, when Fudakowski decided to bring the novel Tsotsi to the screen and offered the job to the director of In Desert and Wilderness.
Fudakowski was not the first producer to take on Athol Fugard’s novel, published for the first time in 1980.
For 20 years many New York producers wanted to make this movie. The text went from one to another but nobody made the final decision. I read one of the scripts and fell asleep. I understood that this novel must be told in the 'American style'.
Together with Hood, Fudakowski reworked Fugard’s novel, leaving the political context aside. Instead of making a film about apartheid and South Africa’s political problems, they created a story about human emotions and dramas. Tsotsi told the story of a young black gangster who finds a newborn baby in a car he stole. The drama about his moving metamorphosis pulsed to the rhythm of kwaito and the film seduced with subtle melodrama.
During the Toronto Film Festival, Gavin Hood’s film won an audience award and was noticed by selectors from other festivals. It won a special award during the festival in Thessaloniki and was nominated for the Italian David de Donatello award, European Film Award, Bafta and Golden Globe. In 2006 it received an Oscar for best foreign language film.
In 2014 Fudakowski made his directorial debut with Secret Sharer, a film based on Joseph Conrad’s short story. The film was not a direct adaptation, but treated Conrad as an inspiration. Fudakowski introduced a romantic plot to the film, also underlining its comic accents. His Secret Sharer is a romantic thriller about the adventures of a young captain who travels through the waters of South China Sea with a rebellious crew and a mysterious fugitive. In an interview with Culture.pl he said:
Before, I didn’t realise how difficult a writer Conrad is for filmmakers. (…) His stories seduced me with the precision of their plots and with what they said about human condition, but only working on the Secret Sharer did I understand how difficult it is to translate this prose to the language of cinema.
At first the director wanted to make the film in China. As Fudakowski recalls:
For three years I had to dance around the Chinese censors. In the end I was told that I could come, that I would get funding and permission, but that I had to wait two weeks for the script. When I finally got it, I saw only traces of the original script. I didn’t want to make a propaganda movie, so I had to resign.
He made his film in Thailand, shooting mostly on an old ship. Among the actors were Jack Laskey from England and Zhu Zhu from China, and the crew spoke in five different languages: in Polish, English, Thai, Korean and Mandarin Chinese. The director of cinematography was Michał Tywoniuk, a Łódź Film School graduate who has been working in China for many years. The film had its Polish premiere in September 2015.
Fudakowski’s next project is entitled Corams Children, a historical film set in the 18th century. It tells the story of four different characters, including composer Georg Friedrich Händel, painter William Hogarth, and philanthropist Thomas Coram, a philanthropist who created the first charity to help homeless children in England.
Bartosz Staszczyszyn, translated by N. Mętrak-Ruda, October 2015