Oscars: Poland Selects 'Afterimage' for Foreign-Language Category

Afterimage -Still 2- H 2016
Courtesy of TIFF

The Polish submission is the ninth for 90-year-old director Andrzej Wajda, who has been nominated four times but never won an Oscar.

Poland has submitted Afterimage, veteran director Andrzej Wajda's film about an artist persecuted by Communist-era authorities, in the Oscars' foreign-language film category.

Films by Wajda, who turned 90 earlier this year, have been submitted by Poland on eight previous occasions. He has been nominated four times, most recently in 2007 for Katyn, his pic about the wartime massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet secret police, but has never won the coveted golden statuette.

Afterimage, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, reflects Wajda's lifelong passion for probing beneath the surface of Polish life to reflect the country's troubled history and/or contemporary issues.

The Hollywood Reporter''s review called the film "a compelling portrait, despite some broad brush strokes."

On the surface, Afterimage is a biopic about avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski (played by Boguslaw Linda)  who was persecuted by post-war Polish authorities for his refusal to employ his art in the service of the Communist cause. Strzeminski was a contemporary of early Soviet abstract and constructivist artists that included Kasimir Malevich and Katarzyna Kobro, whom he later married.

Wajda's film, which concentrates on the last couple of years of Strzeminski's life when devoted students at the art institute where he teaches refuse to desert him even though they, like their revered teacher, are kicked out by college authorities.

For Polish audiences, parallels with the country's current political situation — where a right-wing government is pushing through a raft of measures affecting free speech and other areas unprecedented since Communist times — will be clear.

Wajda told THR: "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 of the world. It is of crucial importance to remember about the sorrowful past in order to not repeat it in the future."

In a statement, the Polish Oscar Committee said: "Whereas members of the Academy have a high regard for the ideals of civil liberties and freedom, Afterimage stands a good chance of winning the Academy's favor. Andrzej Wajda's most recent film is a touching universal story about the destruction of an individual by totalitarianism. The director has shown us a world in which beauty, art, and artistic integrity are persecuted."

Afterimage was produced by Akson Studio and co-produced by Poland's National Audiovisual Institute, Telewizja Polska, EC1 Lodz-Miasto Kultury and Fundacja Tumult, with co-financing from the Polish Film Institute. Films Boutique is handling world sales.

Poland has submitted films to the Oscars on 48 occasions since Roman Polanski's debut Knife in the Water in 1963, earning 10 nominations and one win: Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida in 2014.