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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » March 31, 2011
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The Eagles Have Landed
March 31, 2011   
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The Eagles (Orły) Polish Film Awards, dubbed the Polish Oscars, were given out in a ceremony at the Polski Theater in Warsaw March 7.

The big winner of the awards ceremony was 73-year-old Jerzy Skolimowski, a Polish director who has for many years lived and worked abroad. He took home the Best Director statuette for Essential Killing, which also won awards for Best Film, Best Score and Best Editing.

The fictional story in Essential Killing revolves around a Taliban fighter who, captured by American troops in Afghanistan, escapes from a convoy carrying him to a CIA base somewhere in Central Europe. The movie was a major success at the recent Venice Film Festival (see Voice October 2010) where Skolimowski received the Grand Special Jury Prize, the second most important award at Venice after the Golden Lion. American actor Vincent Gallo, who played the protagonist in Essential Killing, won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor.

“I had a speech ready for February,” Skolimowski said on collecting his 2011 Eagle Award, making a humorous reference to the Academy Award Ceremony. “It went: ‘Thank you, Academy.’ It’s come in handy in March.” Paweł Mykietyn received an Eagle for the score to Essential Killing and Reka Lemhenyi and Maciej Pawliński for the editing.

Gallo was nominated for an Eagle as well, but lost out to Robert Więckiewicz, who played the leading male role in the political drama Różyczka (Little Rose) by Jan Kidawa-Błoński. Więckiewicz plays a security service officer in communist Poland assigned the task of forcing his girlfriend (the titular Little Rose) to win the heart of a middle-aged writer suspected of anticommunist inclinations. Largely based on a true story, Różyczka was one of the most popular movies with Polish audiences last year.

The Best Actress in a Leading Role statuette went to Urszula Grabowska for a historical drama entitled Joanna, directed by veteran Polish director Feliks Falk. The movie also won an award for Stanisława Celińska as Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Joanna, set in Nazi-occupied Cracow, tells the story of a young waitress who takes in a seven-year-old Jewish girl whose mother is taken to the ghetto. The movie shows Joanna’s struggle to save the child and, subsequently, herself.

The Eagle for Best Actor in a Supporting Role went to Adam Woronowicz, who played a ruthless and sadistic gangster hunting the main character in Chrzest (The Christening), a drama by Marcin Wrona.

One of last year’s biggest hits in Poland was Wszystko, co kocham (All That I Love), written and directed by Jacek Borcuch. The coming-of-age story follows a group of young friends in northern Poland as they fall in love, experience their first disappointments and crises in the turbulent days of the early 1980s. The film was the Polish contender for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category, but it failed to impress the Academy Award judges. Back in Poland, it won Eagles for Best Script for Borcuch, Newcomer of the Year for Marcin Ko¶ciukiewicz, who played the main role, and the Viewers’ Choice Award.

Four statuettes went to Wenecja (Venice), directed by Jan Jakub Kolski. The main character is a 11-year-old boy who obsesses about seeing Venice, a city his family has traveled to for generations, but his dreams clash with the brutal reality of World War II. The judges said that, like all movies by Kolski, Wenecja’s strength is its atmosphere and handed it a slew of awards. Jacek Hamela received an Eagle for Best Sound Editing, Joanna Macha for Best Art Direction, Artur Reinhardt for Best Cinematography, and Małgorzata Zacharska for Best Costume Design.

Since 2009, members of the Polish Film Academy have also handed out an award for Best European Film shown in Polish theaters. This year’s winner can hardly be considered a foreign filmmaker, however, because the Eagle went to legendary Polish director Roman Polanski for his political thriller entitled The Ghost Writer. Boasting a stellar cast with the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Ewan MacGregor, Olivia Williams and Tom Wilkinson, the movie has won a string of awards at film festivals around the world.

During the award ceremony, Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski presented a Lifetime Achievement Eagle to Tadeusz Chmielewski, a director, screen writer and producer who in the past five decades made enormously popular and now classic comedies such as Ewa chce spać (Ewa Wants to Sleep), Nie lubię poniedziałku (I Don’t Like Mondays), Gdzie jest generał? (Where’s the General?) and the Jak rozpętałem II Wojnę ¦wiatow± (How I Started World War II). All were box-office hits during the communist era and have been repeatedly shown on television ever since. In the 1990s, Chmielewski made a brief comeback as the writer of a popular comedy entitled U Pana Boga za piecem and directed by Jacek Bromski.

“We want to pay tribute to a great director and great artist and to thank him for all the magnificent moments, the joy and the fantastic actors he chose,” said Zdrojewski.

Previous Lifetime Achievement Eagle recipients include Andrzej Wajda (2000), Roman Polanski (2003), Jerzy Hoffman (2006), and Janusz Morgenstern (2008). Last year, the statuette went to screenwriter Jerzy Stawiński.

The Polish Eagles were first given out in 1999. The winners are chosen by over 500 members of the Polish Film Academy, the Polish counterpart of national film academies which grant the Césars in France, the Lions in the Czech Republic and the Goya Awards in Spain. The Academy is currently chaired by Polish film director Agnieszka Holland, known for internationally acclaimed movies such as To Kill a Priest with Christophe Lambert, Copying Beethoven starring Ed Harris, and Total Eclipse starring Leonardo di Caprio.

The organizer of the Polish Film Awards is the Independent Film Foundation. All Eagle nominees are subsequently invited to become members of the European Film5 Academy.
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