Mr. Jones

Poland, UK, Ukraine 2019

Synopsis

1933: Gareth Jones is an ambitious young Welsh journalist who gained fame after his report on being the first foreign journalist to fly with Hitler. Whilst working as an advisor to Lloyd George, he is now looking for his next big story. The Soviet “utopia” is all over the news, and Jones is intrigued as to how Stalin is financing the rapid modernisation of the Soviet Union.
On leaving his government role, Jones decides to travel to Moscow in an attempt to get an interview with Stalin himself. There he meets Ada Brooks, a British journalist working in Moscow, who reveals that the truth behind the regime is being violently repressed. Hearing murmurs of government-induced famine, a secret carefully guarded by the Soviet censors, Jones manages to elude the authorities and travels clandestinely to Ukraine, where he witnesses the atrocities of man-made starvation – millions left to starve – as all grain is sold abroad to finance the industrialising Soviet empire.
Deported back to London, Jones publishes an article revealing the horrors he witnessed. But the starvation is denied by Western journalists reporting from Moscow, all under pressure from the Kremlin, including Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Walter Duranty. As death threats mount, Jones has to fight for the truth.
Meeting a young author by the name of George Orwell, Jones shares his findings … helping to inspire the great allegorical novel "Animal Farm".

Directors Statement

Our main character, the young journalist Gareth Jones, becomes famous after publishing an article about his ride on an airplane with the new Chancellor of Germany - Adolf Hitler. Jones uses his political position in the British government as a foreign affairs advisor to David Lloyd George to get privileged access to the Soviet Union. There he searches for his next big story, scrutinising the political and economic situation in Russia.

In Moscow, Jones learns of government-induced hunger in Ukraine carefully kept secret by the Soviets. He manages to go to Ukraine and document the atrocities he witnesses. He also faces fear and hypocrisy experienced not only by Soviet citizens, but also by Western correspondents and politicians who sold the truth for fame and profits.

We wanted to describe the whole mechanism of Jones entering consecutive circles of hell, confronting brutal reality with his idealism, youthfulness and courage, in an evocative way, yet simply and straightforwardly. No journalistic and informative obviousness, no sentimental blackmail and explicit happy ending. Nobody wanted to listen to the truth about Stalin’s atrocities which Jones exposed.

Neither was it in the interest of British politics, nor in the interest of the mighty of that world. The truth about Soviet reality, the truth about the Holodomor – Stalin’s man-made famine, as well as the truth about the Holocaust were gagged by the politically and morally corrupted West. The conclusions which can be drawn from this simple story showing – in a very subjective and sensitive way – the untold reality of those years is incredibly valid today when Ukraine is at war provoked by Stalin’s heirs, when Europe is in danger of thousands of internal and external threats and is not able to confront the truth and unite to protect its values.

The key to the story for me was the story line of George Orwell writing his famous allegorical dystopian novel – "Animal Farm". Jones discovering the truth about the mass murder of Ukrainian peasants somehow inspires Orwell’s story and becomes a part of it. We wanted the movie to be simple and real; the stylistic devices we used are mostly invisible, except when we want to express Jones’ motion, energy, his appetite for truth – then we use inspiration from the Soviet avant-garde.

The film finds its substance thanks to the four main actors playing Orwell (Joseph Mawle); Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard), the New York Times Moscow Bureau Chief; the reporter Ada Brooks (Vanessa Kirby), and Gareth Jones (James Norton). And the most difficult is the task of James Norton; he carries all the weight of the story, bringing to life the courage, honesty, and ideas of Mr. Jones – together with his humour, intelligence, and integrity.

We knew, when shooting this film, that we are telling an important timeless story. But only after I realised how relevant is today this tale about fake news, alternative realities, corruption of the media, cowardice of governments, indifference of people.

The clash of Jones’s courage and determination against Duranty’s cynical opportunism and cowardice is still valid as well. Today, we don’t lack corruptible conformists and egoists; we lack Orwells and Joneses. That is why we brought them back to life.

Director's Biography

Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1948, Agnieszka Holland graduated from the FAMU Film School in Prague and began her career assisting Krzysztof Zanussi and Andrzej Wajda. She collaborated with Krzysztof Kieslowski on the screenplay of his trilogy, THREE COLOURS. Her film Gorączka screened in Competition at the Berlinale in 1981, the year in which she emigrated to Paris. Since then she has made over 30 films, winning awards including the Golden Globe and Silver Berlin Bear, and being nominated for an Oscar, BAFTA and Emmy.

Filmography:
2019 - MR. JONES
2018 - 1983, tv series (2 episodes)
2017 - SPOOR
2015 - HOUSE OF CARDS, tv (2 episodes)
2014 - ROSEMARY’S BABY, tv mini series
2013 - TREME, tv series (5 episodes)
2012 - THE KILLING, tv series (3 episodes)
2011 - IN DARKNESS
2009 - COLD CASE, tv series (4 episodes)
2008 - THE WIRE, tv series (3 episodes)
2007 - EKIPA, tv series
2006 - COPYING BEETHOVEN
2002 - JULIE WALKING HOME
1999 - THE THIRD MIRACLE
1997 - WASHINGTON SQUARE
1995 - FALLEN ANGELS, tv series
1993 - THE SECRET GARDEN
1992 - OLIVIER, OLIVIER
1991 - LARGO DESOLATO
1990 - EUROPA, EUROPA
1988 - TO KILL A PRIEST
1985 - ANGRY HARVEST
1981 - FEVER
1979 - PROVINCIAL ACTORS
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Agnieszka Holland

Written by: Andrea Chalupa

Produced by: Andrea Chalupa, Klaudia Smieja, Stanislaw Dziedzic

Cinematography: Tomasz Naumiuk

Editing: Michał Czarnecki

Production Design: Grzegorz Piatkowski

Costume Design: Aleksandra Staszko

Hair & Make-up: Janusz Kaleja

Original Score: Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz

Sound: Marcin Matlak, Wojciech Mielimaka

Visual Effects: Michał Konwicki

Main Cast: James Norton (Gareth Jones), Vanessa Kirby (Ada Brooks), Peter Sarsgaard (Walter Duranty)

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Feature Film Selection 2019