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Andrzej Wajda (6 March 1926 – 9 October 2016)

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The most prominent movie maker to come out of Poland, Andrzej Wajda was also a director with a strong European sensibility, even as he was chronicling the turbulent political times he lived in. His father was killed in the Katyn Massacre in 1940 (an event Wajda would revisit in 2007), but he survived along with his mother and brother. After the war he went to Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts, and then in the early Fifties the Łódź Film School, where he was an apprentice to the director Aleksander Ford. He made his first movie, A Generation in 1955; it was also the first in a trilogy of movies that would take an anti-war stance then unpopular in Poland itself, which was still under Soviet rule.

He worked in the theatre as well, but focused more and more on movie making. His work gained international recognition – Kanal (1956) shared the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1957 with Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal – and he was able to explore more of the topics that interested him, as in Lotna (1959), a tribute to the Polish Cavalry that his father had been a part of. Throughout the Sixties he made movies that were more and more allegorical and symbolic, and his reputation increased accordingly. He was most successful in the Seventies, making a string of films that cemented his position as the foremost Polish movie maker of his generation.

In the Eighties he continued to make movies but more and more of his time was taken up with supporting Lech Wałęsa’s Solidarity movement. This involvement angered the Polish government to such an extent that it forced the closure of Wajda’s production company. Undeterred, Wajda continued to make the movies he wanted to make, and his career continued to go from strength to strength. In 1990 he was honoured by the European Film Awards with a Lifetime Achievement award (only the third director to have the honour, after Fellini and Bergman). Wajda won numerous other awards during his lifetime, and he was a tireless innovator who held a light up to the social and political upheavals and troubles that were occuring in his beloved Poland. His movies had a rigid formalism to them that was always undermined (and deliberately so) by Wajda’s own innate sympathy for humanity. He was a passionate, discerning movie maker who could make audiences laugh, cry, be angry or sad, but never bored or uninvolved.

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1 – A Generation (1955)

2 – Kanal (1957)

3 – Ashes and Diamonds (1958)

4 – The Birch Wood (1970)

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5 – The Promised Land (1975)

6 – Man of Marble (1977)

7 – Man of Iron (1981)

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8 – Danton (1983)

9 – Korczak (1990)

10 – Katyn (2007)

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