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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » December 30, 2014
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Polish Movie Named Best in Europe
December 30, 2014   
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Ida, a Polish drama exploring the complicated issue of Polish-Jewish relations in postwar Poland, claimed five awards, including for best film of the year, at the European Film Awards in Riga, Latvia, Dec. 13.

Ida is the work of Polish director Paweł pawlikowski, 57, who took home the award for best direction and, together with Rebecca lenkiewicz, for best screenplay, at Riga.

Ida also won the European Film Award for best cinematography (Łukasz Żal) and the people’s choice award.

The five European Film Awards mark the biggest success of Polish cinema at European film festivals since Krzysztof Kie¶lowski’s A Short Film About Killing was named best European film at the first European Film Awards in 1988. The awards, dubbed the “European Oscars,” are given out by the European Film Academy, which at present has over 3,000 members.

Set in 1960s’ Poland, Ida is the story of a young girl who, raised in a Catholic convent, is now a novitiate nun. Before she takes her vows, she is sent by the older nuns to meet her only living relative, an aunt who is a staunch communist and a former Stalinist prosecutor. The aunt tells the girl, the Ida of the title, about her Jewish origins and other shocking facts from her early childhood. The two women embark on a heart-wrenching trip across Poland, on which family secrets are revealed and Ida struggles with an identity crisis caused by the unexpected truth.

The Pawlikowski movie has so far garnered over 60 awards at film festivals around the world and has become the most internationally popular Polish movie in the last 25 years. It has been seen by more than 600,000 people in the United States alone, while back in Poland, its box-office performance was hardly impressive after the film’s first release. According to Pawlikowski, the difficult subject of the movie may have caused audiences to initially dismiss Ida as too dark and serious. The Polish distributor is considering re-releasing Ida in Poland in the hope that the string of international awards will now draw more viewers.

A rare move in contemporary cinema, Ida was shot on black-and-white film and clocks in at just 82 minutes. Despite its modest form, the movie has also been nominated for the Golden Globe awards, the results of which will be announced Jan. 11.

Even though Pawlikowski is Polish, Ida is the first movie he has made in Poland. A philosophy and literature graduate from Oxford University, Pawlikowski has worked most of his life in Britain, where he started out by making documentaries for British television companies. His second feature film, Last Resort from 2001, won Pawlikowski the BAFTA award for Most Promising Newcomer in British Film. Last Resort was also screened to considerable interest at the film festivals in Toronto and Sundance. Pawlikowski’s next movie, My Summer of Love from 2004, won the BAFTA’s Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film.

Pawlikowski has said in interviews that his double British and Polish perspective is what enabled him to make Ida different from what viewers in both Poland and elsewhere in Europe are used to seeing.

This unique approach to the subject seems to be the main selling point of Ida, even though the movie initially received lukewarm reviews in Europe, failing to make it into the official selection at the Berlin and Cannes festivals. Judges at other festivals were far more enthusiastic, and many critics have highlighted the skillful way in which Ida combines two dark chapters of the 20th century: the Holocaust and communism in Central and Eastern Europe.
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