Polish director of Holocaust film says he’s been blacklisted by government

Pawel Pawlikowski states his Oscar-winning movie ‘Ida’ now banned in wake of law barring blaming Poles for Nazi crimes

Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski poses during a photocall for the film 'Cold War (Zimna Wojna)' at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 11, 2018. (AFP Photo/Valery Hache)
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski poses during a photocall for the film 'Cold War (Zimna Wojna)' at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 11, 2018. (AFP Photo/Valery Hache)

CANNES, France (AFP) — Oscar-winning director Pawel Pawlikowski claimed Friday that he had been blacklisted by Poland’s populist right-wing government and compared censorship in the country now to the dark days of communism.

The 60-year-old, who won the best foreign language movie for “Ida” in 2015, told AFP that the film had been banned from being shown on television or in Polish cultural institutes abroad.

“The film is on a blacklist… There is now a blacklist of books, theater directors and filmmakers who must not be supported,” he said.

“I have the honor to be on this list,” Pawlikowski said as his new film, “Cold War” was premiered at the Cannes film festival.

“With the new government, which has taken total control of public television, it is just like under communism. The propaganda on TV is incredible,” he said.

A scene from the Polish movie ‘Ida’ (screen capture: YouTube/Film Festivals and Indie Films)

His last film “Ida” became the target of attacks and a petition by the country’s Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, then in opposition, when it was nominated for an Academy Award.

He accused Pawlikowski of blackening the country’s reputation.

The film about a young Catholic nun who learns she is a Holocaust orphan, touches on the killing of Jews during the Nazi occupation by Poles with whom they had sought refuge — a fact swept under the carpet for decades.

Holocaust law

It also alludes to the role of Jewish communists in post-war Poland’s security services and that the judiciary played in eliminating the regime’s opponents.

In March, Glinski’s government passed a controversial “Holocaust law” making it illegal to attribute Nazi crimes to Poland.

Pawlikowski, 60, who has spent most of his life in exile in Britain, said he did not set out to give a history lesson.

“I don’t make political films and I don’t like watching them. I prefer to tell stories about characters who have complicated relationships, but in a world where history weighs on them, that becomes political,” he told AFP.

He said he feared that Poland’s ruling conservatives — who have been accused by the EU of attempting to roll back rights and the rule of law — will turn his new film into another political scandal for “not having sufficiently pointed out the horrors of communism.”

Poland’s Culture Minister Piotr Glinski looks the marble bust of the antique goddess Diana during a ceremony of return at the Lazienki Palace in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, December 18, 2015 (AP/Alik Keplicz)

“Cold War” is the story of two star-crossed lovers — loosely based on Pawlikowski’s own parents — flitting dangerously back and forth over the Iron Curtain until one is thrown into a communist work camp.

Described as “unbearably lovely” by the Hollywood Reporter, Joanna Kulig is already an early favorite for best actress award at the festival, and has been compared to the late French legend Jeanne Moreau by some critics.

“Any film which does not simplify reality will have problems today [in Poland],” Pawlikowski argued.

“Poland is going through a very ideological time with the new right-wing government which is reinterpreting everything based on two very simple criteria — ‘Back then was absolute evil, and now everything is great. We are a noble people, it was the terrible communists [who did those things] and not us, it was the Martians,'” he said.

“This is not a time for nuance,” he added.

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