Hoping for their 11th Foreign Language Film nomination at the Academy Awards, Poland has submitted the biopic “Powidoki” (“Afterimage”), a beautifully shot drama based on the life and destruction of avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski. At the helm was legendary Polish director Andrzej Wajda, who died in October of 2016 at age 90.
Wajda was no stranger to the Oscars, having directed four of the 10 Polish films that have been previously nominated in the Foreign Language Film category. He was also awarded an honorary Oscar in 2000. So, it is not farfetched to presume the academy could recognize the late director for his final film. But would a nomination have merit beyond honoring a respected filmmaker?
Without question, yes. The film tells the powerful story of Strzeminski, a respected artist and professor who refuses to conform to the government demands that all art should portray socialist realism. Over the last four years of his life (1948-1952), Strzeminski’s refusal to compromise his art not only ruins his career but leaves his entire life in shambles. The film speaks to the dangers of censorship and the integrity of art. It is also a gorgeous visual piece, shot by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Pawel Edelman (“The Pianist”) with an impeccable set design.
Poland has had moderate success in this category, tied for seventh place with Israel for the most Foreign Language Film nominations, at 10. The first bid came in 1963 for the Roman Polanski film, “Knife in the Water.” Two years ago, “Ida”, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, became the first Polish film to prevail. Wajda helmed four nominees: “The Promised Land” (1975), “The Maids of Wilko” (1979), “Man of Iron” (1981) and “Katyn” (2007).
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