In his new film, Oscar-winning filmmaker, Andrzej Wajda, looks to restore the reputation of his old friend and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.
He re-tells the story of the charismatic union boss during the violent food-strikes of the 1970s, and how he went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and govern his country.
Walesa’s reputation was decidedly tarnished during a five year presidency, in which he was accused of broken promises and authoritarian leadership, and many Poles have not forgotten or forgiven him since.
For Wajda, the film is an opportunity to go back to the man’s roots: “I decided that no more false information should be spread around which helps create this false image of Lech as the one who has caused trouble and defeat. No one remembers that it was him who brought us freedom. “
Given the film conveniently ends before the start of Walesa’s controversial presidency, questions have been asked about Wajda’s objectivity. The director remains unapologetic: “He understood that this is all we were able to do, that we could do, and we did it from the depth of our hearts. I will tell you this is the hardest movie that I did in my life. The hardest because the hero is still living, and the opinion is hanging over us.”
Two years ago, Wajda took on another giant historical subject – the 1940 Katyn massacre of Polish officers by Soviet forces, who in turn blamed it on the Nazis.
His film, ‘Katyn’, generated a outpouring of emotion not just in Poland but in Russia, too. But where ‘Katyn’ united, Walesa looks set to divide.