Acclaimed movie Ida heralds Polish cinema renaissance
Jan. 09, 2015
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish movie vying for Golden Globe glory has raised hopes of a revival in the country's grand cinematic traditions — which include masters such as Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Kieslowski.
"Ida," a reflective movie about the legacy of the Holocaust in communist Poland, has unexpectedly been showered with international awards since its release in 2013. Polish-British director Pawel Pawlikowski's film is a nominee for best foreign language film in Sunday's Golden Globes and is widely expected to win a best foreign film nomination when Oscar candidates are announced next week.
The movie tells the story of a young woman, Ida, who discovers on the eve of becoming a Catholic nun that she is Jewish. She sets out on a journey into her family's past and that of Poles under Nazi Germany — some saving, others killing Jews — then into the repressions of communism, in which some Jews played a role. Critics say that one of the film's strengths is that it passes no judgment.
The deceptively simple story has resonated worldwide because the protagonists mature and discover their identity by facing the tragic truth of their past.
Shot in black-and-white with a static camera, "Ida" reflects the style of European art house cinema of the early 1960s, the period in which the story is set. In December, it won best European film, best director, best screenplay and best cinematography at the European Film Awards. It has also won best foreign language film awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and from the New York Film Critics Circle.
The success brings recognition to a resurgent Polish cinema that went through creative and financial crisis first under martial law in the 1980s, then during the first years of market economy in the 1990s. After the communist collapse, established directors lost their traditional theme of cryptically bashing the regime while finding themselves at a loss to respond artistically to the new Polish reality. The void was filled by Hollywood productions banned under communism.
"Poland's cinema is doing better," said film critic Barbara Hollender. "A new, very interesting generation has arrived. And we have a new system of financing movies which made a lot of difference."
Other promising Polish directors include Jan Komasa, who made "Suicide Room" about the teenage loneliness in the Internet age, and Malgorzata Szumowska, whose movies explore complex issues like abortion and homosexuality.
"Ida" was co-financed by the state-run Polish Film Institute, established in 2005 to provide technical support and funds for Polish movies that pass a rigorous script selection. In 2013 its budget was 170 million zlotys (euros 40 million; $48 million.) Other funds for "Ida" came from European Union, Danish and Polish sources.
Under communism all movies were fully state-funded. Masters like Wajda and Kieslowski camouflaged the anti-communist message of their movies to win censors' approval — the chief condition for obtaining funding from the Ministry of Culture.
Under the market economy that system was abolished and directors had to secure money from private sponsors, a challenge that undercut art cinema and benefited pure entertainment. With the advent of the institute, filmmakers now have an avenue of funding that allows for ambitious projects like "Ida."
Warsaw-born Pawlikowski left Poland with his mother at age of 14, eventually settling in England. His 2000 movie "Last Resort" won the British BAFTA award for Best Newcomer and his 2005 "My Summer of Love" won the Best British Film BAFTA.