Ida director Pawel Pawlikowski stands ground against complaints of historical inaccuracy

The Polish director, whose film has two Oscar nominations, has said the furore about Ida’s clarity on Holocaust history is ‘absurd’ and ‘too silly to comment on’

The director of Oscar-nominated Holocaust drama Ida has spoken out to defend the film against accusations by nationalists of anti-Polish sentiment.

Pawel Pawlikowski told Deadline that a petition launched by the Polish Anti-Defamation League (Reduta Dobrego Imienia) calling for the film to carry title cards reminding viewers that Poland was under occupation by Nazi Germany at the time of depicted events was “absurd”. He dismissed complaints against the drama, in which a young nun living in the 1960s discovers that her Jewish parents were murdered by the Polish family which was hiding them from the Nazis, as “a stream of hate in the Polish media from the right”, describing the furore as “too silly to comment on”.

More than 40,000 people have signed a petition lamenting Ida’s supposed anti-Polish rhetoric and alleged historical inaccuracy. The Polish Anti-Defamation League is concerned that that international viewers may not be aware that the Nazi invaders were responsible for the Holocaust, and that hiding Jews was a death penalty offence during the Nazi occupation, but Pawlikowski questioned whether any of them had actually seen his film.

“Ida doesn’t set out to explain history,” he said. “That’s not what it’s about. The story is focused on very concrete and complex characters who are full of humanity with all its paradoxes. They’re not pawns used to illustrate some version of history or an ideology. Life is complicated, why can’t art be complicated?”

Pawlikowski, who has worked in Britain for most of his life but grew up in communist Poland, said he was not surprised that Ida had found more favour internationally than in the land of his birth.

“I wanted to make the film very specific and very concrete, and at the same time universal and poetic,” he said. “Audiences in Brazil, Spain or Finland respond to it because it transcends the time and the place where it is set. And not because they are being educated about the ins and outs of Polish history.

“Anyway,” he continued, “are these ‘patriots’ seriously saying that situations such as those described in the film could have never occurred? And are they seriously imagining that the audiences who go to see Ida don’t know that the Holocaust was perpetrated by the Germans?”

Pawlikowski lamented the fact that his critics “keep talking in terms of the Poles and the Jews all the time”. He said: “But for me [Jewish characters] Ida and Wanda are just as Polish as other characters they come across like the farmer Felix, or the saxophonist Lis who has a dalliance with Ida. In my films, I want to cut across all this kind of talk. Art should deal with our common humanity.”

Ida, which was released in Poland in October 2013, has won praise there as well as condemnation. The drama won the best film prize from the Polish Film Academy in 2013 as well as three other gongs. It also won best film at the European Film Awards and the London film festival and is up for Bafta prizes for best foreign language film and best cinematography.


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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