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Protests over alleged TV 'manipulation' of Holocaust movie 'Ida'

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 29.02.2016 12:00
The Guild of Polish Directors and a group of over 100 film critics have written protest letters to chairman of public broadcaster TVP Jacek Kurski over the alleged 'manipulation' of 2015 Oscar-winner 'Ida'.
'Ida'. Image: press materials'Ida'. Image: press materials

On 25 February channel TVP2 broadcast the film, which explores the divisive issue of Polish complicity in the Holocaust, preceded by a studio discussion.

However, according to the signatories of the letters, the discussion was one-sided:

Everyone presented similar opinions on the subject of 'Ida', to a greater or lesser degree accusing the film of being anti-Polish,” the film critics argued.

'Ida' was presented in a biased and harmful way,” the directors stated in a separate letter.

This arouses our distaste,” they continued, claiming that the national broadcaster was reverting to methods practised in the communist era.”

Signatories included Andrzej Wajda, Wojciech Smarzowski, Jan Komasa, and Agnieszka Holland, among over 40 other film-makers.

Nevetheless, Jacek Sasin, MP for ruling party Law and Justice, has defended TVP's handling of the film.

Public television defended the good name of Poland,” he told Radio Zet.

That is the role of television,” he argued.

Head of TVP Jacek Kurski is a former Law and Justice deputy minister and he was directly appointed by the government in January 2016.

Emotive legacy

'Ida' is the story of a fictional novitiate nun who discovers that she is Jewish and that she was saved from the Holocaust as a child by her Mother Superior.

It emerges that the farm-worker who had handed her over to the convent had also murdered other members of her family, apparently fearing German reprisals for harbouring Jews.

Meanwhile, Ida's newly-discovered Jewish aunt turns out to be a Stalinist judge who had sent Polish resistance fighters to their deaths.

Polish-Jewish relations during World War II remain a highly emotive subject in Poland, partly as open debate on the subject was not possible during the communist era, which ended in 1989.

'Ida', which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2015, has been applauded in some quarters as a bold exploration of painful themes from Poland's past, whereas others have claimed that the movie is 'anti-Polish'.

NGO the Polish Anti-Defamation League, one of whose members took part in TVP's discussion of 'Ida', has complained that no written disclaimer was included in the film's opening or end titles stating that the Holocaust was carried out by German Nazis.

TVP added such an announcement following the broadcasting of the film, a factor which the directors and film critics argue interfered with the autonomy of the film.

An anti-semitic campaign led by the Polish government in 1968 compelled several thousand Polish Jews who had survived the war to emigrate. After that, Jewish issues were taboo in many aspects of officially endorsed Polish culture.

It was not until the 1980s that a reassessment of Polish-Jewish relations began in earnest, a trend that gathered pace following the collapse of communism in 1989.

Previously little discussed issues concerning Poland's wartime treatment of Jews have been highlighted in recent years, owing to books such as Jan T. Gross's Neighbours (2001), which focused on what had been a largely forgotten massacre of Jews by ethnic Poles in the town of Jedwabne, north eastern Poland.

Meanwhile, awareness is also growing about Polish gentiles who risked their family's lives by aiding Jews during the Nazi occupation. (nh)

tags: Polish film, TVP
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