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Filmmaker Stanislaw Rozewicz dies

Made film debut in 1945 with 'Brzozowa Street'

Stanislaw Rozewicz, film director, producer and mentor to a generation of Polish filmmakers, died Nov. 9 in Warsaw. He was 84.

Rozewicz was a younger brother of Polish poet and playwright Tadeusz Rozewicz.

He made his film debut in 1946, co-directing (with Wojciech Jerzy Has) the short doc “Brzozowa Street,” presenting life on a Warsaw street ruined by WWII.

A war survivor, he made the war one of his major topics. While other Polish filmmakers of the 1950s and 1960s approached war with either romantic undertones, showing Polish soldiers as tragic young dreamers doomed by fate and death wish (Andrzej Wajda’s “Canal” and “Lotna”) or satirizing the romantic approach by showing the absurdities of war heroism (Andrzej Munk’s “Heroism” and “Bad Luck”), Rozewicz searched for the truth of the common man.

In his quiet, coldly poetic films, he showed soldiers as ordinary men willing to perform their duties simply because it is their job, while at the same time stressing how unprepared they were for the atrocities and depravation war brought. This fit into the larger topic of his films — the observation of how men behave when facing evil and the question of how film can present the reality of moral choices without resorting to artificial overdramatization.

His honest approach to the everyday truth of war made him an easy target for communist censors, who were unhappy with Rozewicz’s refusal to take a political stand. “Brzozowa Street” was withheld by the authorities for two years during which the authorities demanded Rozewicz and Has add a voiceover softening the harsh tone of the images.

His short TV “To the Den” (1965) was witheld for 12 years. It shows an alleged war traitor and soldiers performing an execution on him as similarly depraved by war.

His best-known film is “Certificate of Birth” (1961), which won several awards for its three unsentimental stories depicting children during the war.

In 1967 Rozewicz established TOR Film Co-operative, where he produced the films of a new generation of Polish filmmakers. He nurtured the feature debuts of Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Zanussi, Filip Bajon and Wojciech Marczewski, among others. He was famous for his absolute concentration on the artistic rather than the commercial side of filmmaking (when Kieslowski had problems shooting “Personnel,” his first feature, Rozewicz allowed him to pause the production until he was ready to continue).

Inactive as a film director since 1990, Rozewicz continued to work in theater.

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