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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » May 31, 2012
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In Darkness Showered with Awards
May 31, 2012   
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Agnieszka Holland’s movie In Darkness became the hands-down if not unexpected winner of the 37th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia, which closed May 13.

The film, which was nominated for this year’s Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film, competed against 13 other titles, including eight premieres. Based on a true story, In Darkness centers around Leopold Socha, a Polish small-time crook who during World War II saved a group of Jews in Nazi-occupied Lvov by helping them hide in sewers for months. At Gdynia, the film won the Golden Lions award, which is the top prize given to the best film. Holland (pictured), in turn, received the best director award.

Shooting a new movie in the Czech Republic, Holland was unable to attend the award ceremony, but she sent a letter of thanks which was read out during the ceremony.

Holland dedicated the Golden Lions to her mother. “She was the one to make me sensitive to the suffering of other people and awoke a sense of empathy in me,” Holland wrote in the letter. “She taught me that the tragedy of Jews concerned us all—Jews, Poles, all mankind. That the tragedy confronts us with the most difficult and still unanswered questions about human nature. She taught me that we must not forget about it.”

In Darkness also claimed the awards for best actor and actress in a leading role. Robert Więckiewicz took home the award for his role as Socha and Agnieszka Grochowska for her part as Klara, one of the saved Jewish women.

In total, In Darkness nabbed nine awards at the Gdynia festival. The winners included Jolanta Dylewska for cinematography, Michał Czarnecki for editing, Jagna Janicka and Katarzyna Lewińska for costume design, Janusz Kaleja for makeup, and Erwin Prib, Katarzyna Sobańska and Marcel Sławiński for art direction.

When the results were announced, most commentators said that In Darkness had success written all over it right from the beginning. The movie had a successful run in Polish movie theaters and won awards at international film festivals. A similar thing happened last year when the Golden Lions at Gdynia went to Essential Killing by Jerzy Skolimowski, a film that had won awards at several other important international film festivals.

The best directorial debut award went to Leszek Dawid for his Jeste¶ Bogiem (You Are God), the true story of Piotr Łuszcz a.k.a. Magik, a member of the popular Polish rap group Paktofonika who committed suicide in 2000. The judges unanimously named Marcin Kowalczyk, who played Magik, the best new actor, and they also gave awards to Dawid Ogrodnik and Tomasz Schuchardt, who played supporting roles in the movie. The award for best new actress went to Joanna Kulig for her role in Elles by Małgorzata Szumowska, a movie about young women supplementing their income as prostitutes. The movie also won Katarzyna Lewińska her second award for costume design.

The Platinum Lions lifetime achievement award went to cinematographers Witold Sobociński and Jerzy Wójcik. Sobociński is best known for his work in Promised Land by Andrzej Wajda, Pirates and Frantic by Roman Polanski, and Hands Up! by Jerzy Skolimowski. Wójcik’s achievements include The Deluge by Jerzy Hoffman, Pharaoh by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, and Andrzej Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds.

Film critics say they feel unsatisfied after the festival, and some even called it one of the weakest fests in years. They are suggesting the festival needs to be “reinvented” and focus on championing a new course for Polish cinema. The festival audiences, however, seemed satisfied and, judging by their responses, their tastes matched those of the judges.
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