You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Polish Directors’ Guild Expresses ‘Outrage’ at Public Television Network’s Attack on Oscar-Winning Film ‘Ida’

LONDON — The Polish Directors’ Guild has written a letter to express its sense of “outrage” at the decision by Poland’s public broadcaster TVP to screen a program strongly critical of Pawel Pawlikowski’s Oscar-winning film “Ida” immediately before the film aired Thursday on TVP2.

The 12-minute program, titled “Around ‘Ida,’” is composed of clips from the film and monologues by two TVP commentators — film critic Krzysztof Klopotowski of TVP Kultura and historian Piotr Gursztyn of TVP Historia — and Maciej Swirski of the Polish Anti-Defamation League, which campaigns against perceived attacks on Poland’s reputation. In it they claim that the story told in “Ida” is historically inaccurate, and presents an overly negative picture of Polish people’s actions during the Nazi Occupation.

Swirski stated: “If a film is to be part of a nation’s catharsis it should have a meaning that Polish people agree with.” He added: “You should talk about horrible things in a nation’s history but you cannot do it in a way that offends the nation.” Gursztyn added: “Poles have every right to feel sensitive when they are accused of crimes they did not commit, or when they are accused of a scale of crime that is disproportionate to the actual events.”

The program also alleged that “Ida” would not have won its Oscar if it hadn’t presented events in Occupied Poland from the point of view of Jewish characters. Klopotowski said: “If this film did not contribute to the defense of Jews in the Polish-Jewish conflict then it would not get an Oscar.”

The program immediately preceded the film, without an intermission, and ended with a number of title cards that were designed in such a way that they could have been thought to be part of the film itself. These title cards stated that far from participating in the persecution of Jewish Poles during the Occupation, many non-Jewish Poles helped Jews to escape from the Nazis at great risk to themselves.

The multi-layered film follows an 18-year-old novice nun in 1960s Communist Poland, who was orphaned during the Nazi Occupation, as she embarks on a search for the truth about her past and the fate of her family. The film is a nuanced existentialist exploration of questions of faith, identity and forgiveness, and juxtaposes the young nun’s naivety with her aunt’s cynicism. (See Variety review here.)

In its protest letter, the Polish Directors’ Guild stated: “For the first time in the 25-year long history of free public media in Poland a film was accompanied by an ideological interpretation, which did not present the viewer with an analysis of the film’s subject or its artistic value, but instead it enforced ‘its one and only correct’ interpretation.”

It added: “Such actions show not only the lack of respect toward the creators but also the viewers, who lose the opportunity to interpret the film on their own. It’s a sign of the broadcaster’s lack of faith in the viewers’ sensitivity and intelligence. It’s a violation of good conduct and a clear example of manipulative propaganda practices, which do not fit the standards of media in a democratic state.”

The controversy has also provoked a letter of protest from Polish film critics and theorists in which they stated that the title cards “presented by TVP were not clearly separated from the film, and many viewers could have taken it for part of the front credits of the film,” and “instead of a debate we received a one-sided judgement of the film.”

The film’s producers are understood to be taking legal advice to determine whether TVP has violated the terms of its license.

Last week’s assault on “Ida’s” credibility follows a series of attacks by nationalists on Pawlikowski’s film over the past year, including criticism from Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

Pawlikowski told Variety: “They paid no attention to ‘Ida’ when it first came out. It was black and white, starless and arthouse. But when it reached a worldwide audience, started winning awards and threatened to win an Oscar, they used its growing exposure to their own advantage, as part of an election campaign based on fear, a sense of siege and crisis, saying that it’s anti-Polish and part of a sinister worldwide conspiracy by murky forces against the good image of Poland.”

Pawlikowski added: “‘Ida’ is not about an issue, it’s not about setting the record straight, it’s not a film about Polish history — God forbid! — but a layered and complicated film about complicated and ambiguous characters and universal existential questions. Which makes their never-ending attacks on it all the more absurd and self-serving.

“These nationalists don’t deal with the actual film at all. Most of them haven’t actually seen it. They use the film as a mere pretext to rouse patriotic sentiment and give vent to their neverending obsession with a supposed worldwide Jewish-German-leftwing-liberal-Russian (sic) conspiracy against Poland. It’s their outrageous xenophobic statements that do damage to our reputation abroad — not my film.”

Last week’s assault on “Ida” follows a change in Poland’s media law to allow the Law and Justice Party government to take direct control of TVP and other publicly owned media outlets. The party, which has a strongly nationalist agenda, has also taken measures to restrict the role of the constitutional court and increase surveillance of digital communications. The European Union is now investigating these changes, which Parliament president Martin Schulz has described as a “dangerous Putinization of European politics.”

On Saturday, more than 80,000 people protested against what they saw as a smear campaign by the ruling party on the reputation of former democracy leader and Polish president Lech Walesa. The government has alleged Walesa was a paid informant of the Communist secret police in the 1970s; Walesa rejects the allegations and claims documents released by the government have been forged.

Pawlikowski told Variety: “The awful thing is that Poland is a lively, democratic, varied society, and these people, who were voted in by a mere 6.5 million (out of a nation of 40 million), are ruining the image of our country for all of us and for a long time.”

More Film

  • With PGA win, 'Green Book' is

    Oscars: With PGA Victory, 'Green Book' Becomes Best Picture Frontrunner

    Save for a pair of recent back-to-back discrepancies in “The Big Short” and “La La Land,” the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Theatrical Motion Pictures has been a fairly reliable barometer for the annual Oscar season outcome. At least, ever since both the PGA and film Academy expanded their top categories, sharing the [...]

  • Peter Farrelly30th Annual Producers Guild Awards,

    PGA Awards: 'Green Book' Wins Top Feature Film Award

    “Green Book” has won the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award as the top feature film of 2018. The 1960s drama-comedy topped “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite,”  “A Quiet Place,” “Roma,” “A Star Is Born” and “Vice. “When you make ‘Dumb and Dumber’ you never expect to get an award,” [...]

  • Netflix HQ LA

    Andy Gruenberg, Veteran Film Executive, Dies at 68

    Veteran film executive Andy Gruenberg, who most recently oversaw theatrical distribution at Netflix, died suddenly on Friday. He was 68. Gruenberg worked on classic films like “Ghostbusters,” “Karate Kid” and “Silverado” while at Columbia Pictures in the 80s and 90s. He then moved to MGM where he served as exec VP of distribution. There he [...]

  • Fyre Festival Caterer Receives Thousands in

    Unpaid Fyre Festival Caterer Raises Thousands in Donations on GoFundMe

    As two Fyre Festival documentaries hit the airwaves, a couple who say their credit was ruined due to the Fyre Festival’s lack of payment for their services have raised $54,381 at time of publication on GoFundMe. Elvis and Maryann Rolle wrote on their page that they catered “no less than 1000 meals per day” in [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Author Tony Mendez arrives at the

    Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Depicted in 'Argo,' Dies at 78

    Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78. Mendez’s book agent, Christy Fletcher, announced the news on Twitter Saturday morning. “Early this morning, Antonio (Tony) [...]

  • Glass Movie

    'Glass' to Rank in Top 3 MLK Debuts With $48 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is on its way to a solid debut with an estimated $48 million for the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. A sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2017’s “Split,” the Universal superhero thriller should bring in around $41 million from 3,841 domestic locations over the Friday through Sunday period. The estimates are [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content