Poland's veteran film maker Andrzej Wajda leads Oscar hopes


In Poland, cinema buffs and the film-making community are in jubilant mood. The list of Oscar nominations includes several Polish names, with the nation's most acclaimed director Andrzej Wajda leading the field. Michał Kubicki of Polish Radio's External Service reports on the pre-Oscar euphoria.

Sixty three movies entered the Oscar race in the Best Foreign Film category. Addressing reporters after the announcement of the nominations, Andrzej Wajda was in a jocular mood.

‘It cannot be excluded that I know how to make films... Perhaps it’s a funny thing to say but this seems to be the case....’

Andrzej Wajda’s ‘Katyń’ takes its title from the forest in Soviet Russia were over 22 thousand Polish officers were executed on orders from Stalin in 1940.

For 81 year-old Wajda, whose father was a victim of Katyn, the film was the most important in his entire career. He sees the nomination as proof that it was worth delving into one of the most traumatic episodes in Poland’s modern history. Film director Filip Marczewski says it’s a great day for Polish cinema.

‘It’s really good news not only for Wajda but for the whole Polish film community. It’s really important because people in the West don’t really know about Polish history. I think most of the viewers will be surprised that this fact in history happened. I believe ‘Katyń’ is one of Wajda’s best films. I was really touched when I saw it, not only by the subject but also by how it was made.’

Since its premiere four months ago, ‘Katyń’ has attracted an audience of almost three million in Poland. Marek Magierowski, editor of the Rzeczpospolita daily.

‘Every nation needs a historical symbol, an icon, and I think that the Katyń massacre is becoming such an icon for us now’.

Next month, Wajda’s film will have its foreign premiere during the Berlin Festival. There are plans to show it in Russia during a Festival of Polish Culture there this year.

Journalist and critic Jerzy Kisielewski hopes that Wajda’s Katyń will be shown in many countries.

‘I think it is very important that Wajda is a credible person in the cinema world. The same as ‘Schindler’s List’ was some kind of explanation of what really happened during the Nazi occupation in Poland because the author [Steven Spielberg] was credible. So this film is extremely important to close one part in Poland of the historical memory about Katyń and what happened after, and to open explanation of the history outside Poland.’

Eight years ago Wajda won an honorary Oscar for Life Achievement. He’s is not the only Pole in the race for Academy Awards. Photographer Janusz Kaminski, the author of experimental shots for Schnabel’s ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ and the Polish-British animated film ‘Peter and the Wolf’ are also on the list of Oscar nominations. The awards will be announced on March 24.