Cannes Daily Spotlight 2012: Polish Cinema

Throughout a career spanning more than half a century, Andrzej Wajda, Poland’s grand old man of cinema, has never shied away from politically conscious films.

From 1957’s “Kanal” to 2007’s “Katyn,” Wajda has doggedly depicted Poland’s struggles on a worldwide scale.

Now, at the age of 86, he is turning to Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity democracy movement and who became a lightning rod for change in communist-era Poland.

“Walesa,” a biopic about the man who became Poland’s first democratically elected president, is expected to generate interest internationally when it is released.

With less than half the film in the can, Warsaw-based producer Akson Studio is hoping to have it ready for a December premiere.

The film spans the two decades between 1970, when a brutal crackdown on workers in Gdansk protesting sudden steep rises in the price of staple foods left more than 40 dead and thousands injured, and Walesa’s election in 1990.

It is likely to be controversial on its home turf, where many still believe Walesa worked for the Polish secret services. To wit, the film opens with a scene where Walesa is blackmailed into signing a document agreeing to work with the secret police. Later Walesa is shown to have defied the spooks.

“We have witnessed attempts to falsify our recent history,” says Wajda. “It’s time for this film to restore our national hero to the kind of fame and position he deserves in European history.”

The film features Robert Wieckiewicz as Walesa and Agnieszka Grochowska as his wife, Danuta. Cinematographer Pawel Edelman (“The Pianist”) is including archival material digitally manipulated to include the cast.

Cannes Daily Spotlight 2012: Polish Cinema
Natural partners | Fest pumps product into Cannes pipeline | Walesa biopic a natural fit for Wajda | Players, talent call attention to country’s creative growth spurt |

New Horizons fest accents local fare

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