Hundreds of Warsaw residents and public figures packed a church Tuesday for a mourning Mass to bid farewell to renowned filmmaker Andrzej Wajda. Wajda, who received an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar in 2000, died in a hospital Oct. 9 at the age of 90, just months after finishing “Afterimage,” a movie that will compete for a foreign language Academy Award.
The film is a biopic about avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski fighting totalitarian Stalinist ideology.
Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, former presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and Bronislaw Komorowski as well as popular Polish actors, many of whom played in Wajda’s movies, were in the crowd that packed Warsaw’s St. Jack church for the special Mass.
“I came here for him, because he merits our memory,” Stella Wiktor, 82, told The Associated Press before the Mass. “I saw almost all of his films and they will always be with me.” An urn with Wajda’s ashes and his portrait stood near the altar, which was decorated with white gladiolas. “We are losing a teacher, someone with great authority,” the Rev. Andrzej Luter said in the homily. “He knew how to effectively expose the world of primitive propaganda around us,” Luter said.
In awarding him an Oscar for lifetime achievement, the Academy members said Wajda was “a man whose films have given audiences around the world an artist’s view of history, democracy and freedom, and who in so doing has himself become a symbol of courage and hope for millions of people in postwar Europe.”
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He made more than 40 movies, including the 1977 “Man of Marble,” which looked at the roots of worker discontent in communist Poland in the 1950s; and “Man of Iron,” in 1981, on the rise of the Solidarity labor union movement that won him the top prize, the Palme d’Or at Cannes festival that year.
Crowds are expected for Wajda’s funeral that will be held Wednesday in the southern city of Krakow, where his mother is buried.
He is survived by his fourth wife, stage designer and actress Krystyna Zachwatowicz, and by his daughter Karolina, as well as by former wife, actress Beata Tyszkiewicz.