Andrzej Wajda, Oscar-Winning Polish Director, Dies at 90

Andrzej Wajda - Getty - H 2016
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His film 'Afterimage' is Poland's foreign-language Oscar submission this year.

Poland's leading filmmaker Andrzej Wajda, whose career maneuvering between a repressive communist government and an audience yearning for freedom won him international recognition and an honorary Oscar, has died. He was 90.

Wajda had recently been hospitalized and died Sunday night, according to his colleague, film director Jacek Bromski.

Wajda, who recently completed his last film, Afterimage — a biopic of famous Polish avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski — had been struggling with ill health in recent years.

Wajda, who celebrated his 90th birthday in March, had long wanted to make a film about Strzeminski, who was forced out of his job teaching art in post-war Poland after refusing to cooperate with communist authorities.

Wajda completed the film this year, and two weeks ago it was announced as Poland's submission in the foreign-language Oscar race.

Films by Wajda have been submitted by Poland on eight previous occasions, and he had been nominated to the final shortlist four times — most recently in 2007 for Katyn, his film about the wartime massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet secret police. However, the director never won the coveted golden statuette for a film — though in 2000 he did receive an honorary Oscar for "five decades of extraordinary film direction."

Wajda's career stretched across more than six decades with multiple prizes at top international festivals, including Cannes, where his wartime-set feature Kanal collected a special jury prize in 1957. He eventually took the Palme d'Or in 1981 for Man of Iron, another nominee for the foreign-language Oscar.

Two weeks ago, in comments to The Hollywood Reporter about the Oscar submission for Afterimage, Wajda said: "I'm touched by the respect and confidence in my recent work the Polish committee has shown by choosing it to represent Poland in the Oscar run. The film is universal and deeply significant for all of us now, who worry about the development of political events in many corners oft he world. It is of crucial importance to remember about the sorrowful past in order to not repeat it in the future."