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The Venice Film Festival will honor Polish director and screenwriter Andrzej Wajda with its Persol prize, which “celebrates a legend of international cinema.”
One of the greats of the so-called “Polish Film School,” which emerged in the 1950s and early 60s to sketch out individualistic portrayals of the Polish national character in response to the old dictates of social realism, Wajda, 87, has made over 50 films in his 60-year career.
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He first broke onto the international stage with Kanal in 1957, winning the special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival that year. He later won the Palme d’Or with Man of Iron (1981), loosely based on the life of Anna Walentynowicz, a hero of the Polish Solidarity labor movement.
Four of Wajda’s films — The Promised Land, The Maids of Wilko, Man of Iron, and Katy? — were selected by Poland as its submission to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category and were subsequently nominated to the short list. None of the those titles nabbed a statue, but in 2000 Wajda received an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his distinguished career in cinema. He also was awarded the Berlin Golden Bear for lifetime achievement in 2006 and Venice’s Golden Lion for lifetime achievement in 1998.
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Venice festival director, Alberto Barbera, said in a statement: “Wajda is not just the most emblematic director in post-war Polish filmmaking. He is the director who has been capable, in his work (over 50 films in his more than 60-year career), of raising the most decisive and important questions about the history of his country, and consequently, of Europe in its entirety, inviting us to reflect on the critical relationship between personal experiences and those of an entire nation, between the anguish that often befalls individual destinies and the weight of the collective task they are called upon to accomplish.”
The Persol prize will be held on Sept. 5 in the Sala Grande of the Palazzo del Cinema, followed by an out-of-competition screening of Wajda’s latest work, Walesa, Man of Hope (Walesa. Czlowiek z nadziei), which sees him return to the Solidarity movement and themes of heroism, to pay tribute to the movement’s co-founder, Lech Walesa.
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