Walesa, Poland's flawed hero, given redemption in film

Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:08pm EDT
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By Adrian Krajewski and Christian Lowe

WARSAW (Reuters) - Veteran director Andrzej Wajda has earned an honorary Oscar for his catalogue of powerful movies, but he felt he had one more mission to complete before his long career ends: to tell his story of Poland's anti-Communist icon Lech Walesa.

Premiering in a few weeks at the Venice Film Festival, Wajda's film "Walesa. Man of Hope" is the 87-year-old director's attempt to remind the world about the achievements of Walesa, a flawed hero who helped bring an end to the Cold War.

An electrician in the shipyard at the port of Gdansk, Walesa emerged as the leader of the Solidarity trade union movement that in the 1980s took on the Communist generals running the country and forced them to surrender power.

While he was recognized abroad with a Nobel Peace Prize, his reputation in Poland's boisterous new democracy waned. During a spell as president he fell out with many old allies, some of whom now allege he was a Communist informer - something he has always denied.

Wajda said the object of his film was to re-focus attention on the highlights of Walesa's career, not the less distinguished episodes that came later.

"We can show the world our hero," Wajda told Reuters in an interview in his studio in Warsaw.

"I thought to myself, 'I'm old, what am I waiting for? I have to make a film about Walesa, this is my duty and no one else seems to be taking it on."

Wajda is frail now and walks with a stick, but when he starts to recall his first meeting with the mustachioed Walesa, in the Gdansk shipyard some 30 years ago, he seems re-energized.   Continued...

Oscar-winning Polish film director Andrzej Wajda speaks to Reuters during an interview at Akson Studio office in Warsaw August 13, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel