Vladek Juszkiewicz was born in Glogow, Poland. He graduated from the Szczecin Technical University with a degree in Engineering. While attending the University he became a member of The Szczecin Technical University Choir, serving as a President and manager of the group. His travels with the choir took him to Cuba, Canada, India, France, England, Ireland, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Thailand, Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, The Philippines and United States where he visited the White House.
When he moved to Warsaw he became the manager of the Polish international star singer Maryla Rodowicz.
After immigrating to the United States he was introduced to producer, writer and director Paul Leder. He worked on 11 films with the late Mr. Leder. (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0433251)
In 1999 he founded the Polish Film Festival Los Angeles and is serving as the Festival’s Director.
In 2007 the President of Poland awarded him with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for promoting Polish culture abroad. The City of Glogow has awarded him the title of Honorary Citizen of Glogow.
Cinema Without Borders: Please tell us about the very first time that a Polish language film was mentioned in the Academy Awards.
Vladek Juszkiewicz: It was Polanski’s Knife in the Water which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1963 Academy Awards. It brought Polanski fame and respect in the film community and got him on the cover of Time (previous to Knife in the Water, he had only made short films). It is sometimes referred to as one of the best debut feature films in history (alongside with Citizen Kane by Orson Welles). Knife in the Water was shot by Polanski in 1962 with three actors. It was Polanski’s first feature film and two of the actors (Jolanta Umecka, who plays Krystyna and Zygmunt Malanowicz, who plays the young man) had virtually no previous professional experience.
CWB: Have filmmakers from Poland won or were they nominated for an Academy Award?
Vladek: Poland had several Oscar winners:
Bronislaw Kaper received Oscar in 1954 for Lili for Best Music.
Roman Polanski, who won his first best director Oscar in 2003 for The Pianist, was also nominated for the award in 1969 (Rosemary’s Baby—best writing), 1975 (Chinatown—best director) and in 1981 for Tess—best director.
Zbigniew Rybczynski received his Oscar in 1983 for Tango in the Best Short Film, Animated category.
Janusz Kaminski is an Academy Award-winning cinematographer and film director who has photographed all of Steven Spielberg’s movies since 1993’s Schindler’s List. He has won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography twice in the 1990s, for Schindler’s List in 1994 and Saving Private Ryan in 1994. He was also nominated for Amistad in 1998.
Allan Starski and Ewa Braun received there’s Oscar in 1994 for Schindler’s List for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.
In 2005 Jan A. P. Kaczmarek received an Oscar for the music (score) for Finding Neverland, directed by Marc Forster.
Andrzej Wajda received Honorary Oscar Award in 2000 for five decades of extraordinary film direction.
Anton Grat in 1941 received Technical Achievement Oscar Award for the design and perfection of the Warner Bros. water ripple and wave illusion machine.
Leopold Stokowski received Honorary Oscar Award for Fantasia in 1942 for the unique achievement in the creation of a new form of visualized music.
In the Best Foreign Language Film category nominated were: The Promised Land in 1976, Maids of Wilko in 1980 and Man of Iron in 1982 all by Andrzej Wajda, Pharaoh by Jerzy Kawalerowicz in 1967, The Deluge by Jerzy Hoffman in 1975, Nights and Days by Jerzy Antczak in 1977 and Angry Harvest by Agnieszka Holland in 1985.
Nominated Polish filmmakers were: Anton Grot (Franciszek Groszewski) for Best Art Direction for Svengali in 1931, Anthony Adverse in 1937, The Life of Emil Zola in 1938, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex in 1940 and for The Sea Hawk in 1941, Bronislaw Kaper for Best Music for The Chocolate Soldier in 1941 and for Best music and Best Original Song for Mutiny on the Bounty in 1963, Ida Kaminska for Best Actress in Leading Role in 1967 for The Shop on Main Street, Agnieszka Holland for Best Screenplay in 1992 for Europa, Europa, Krzysztof Kieslowski for Best Director and Best Screenpaly and Krzysztof Piesiewicz for Best Screenplay both for Three Colours: Red in 1995, Anna B. Sheppard (nee Biedrzycka) for her Best Costume Designs for Schindler’s List in 1994 and The Pianist in 2003.
Three cinematographers were nominated for Oscars: Pawel Edelman for The Pianist in 2003, Slawomir Idziak for Black Hawk Down in 2002 and Piotr Sobocinski for Three Colours: Red in 1995
In the Best Documentary category two films were nominated: 89 mm from Europe by Marcel Losinski in 1995 and Children of Leningradsky by Hanna Polak and Andrzej Celinski in 2005.
In 2002 Cathedral by Tomek Baginski was nominated in the Best Short Film, Animated category.
CWB: There are many Polish filmmakers and actors who have moved to US and have been successful in filmmaking and being a part of US cinema. Please tell us about the most successful ones of this group.
Vladek: Pola Negri (silent era movie star), Slawomir Idziak (cinematographer), Janusz Kaminski (cienamtographer, director), Agnieszka Holland (director), Roman Polanski (director), Dariusz Wolski (cinematographer), Andrzej Bartkowiak (cinematographer, director), Mona May (costume designer), Jerzy Zielinski (cinematographer), Jan A. P. Kaczmarek (composer).
CWB: Please tell us about the Polish film that represents Poland in Academy Awards 2008.
Vladek: Katyn is a film about the Katyn massacre, directed by Andrzej Wajda. It is based on the book Post mortem–the Katyn story by Andrzej Mularczyk. It is a story of women–mothers, wives and daughters of Polish officers who were mass-executed on Stalin’s orders by the NKVD in April and May 1940.
As a result of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939, 4,500 Polish officers and officer cadets were taken captive and imprisoned in a prisoner camp in Kozielsk in the USSR. All together about 22 thousand officers, soldiers and policemen imprisoned in three camps: Kozielsk, Ostaszkowo and Starobielsk were murdered.
In 1943 the Germans announced that they discovered the graves of those murdered by the NKVD in Katyn. The Soviets denied this fact and accused the Germans of the crime. In communist Poland telling the truth about Katyn resulted in persecution by the Secret Police.
CWB: How do you see the future of the Polish cinema?
Vladek: Polish cinema is developing author based movies like those of Kedzierzawska or Jakimowski. After a series of depressing pictures showing hopelessness, poverty and escaping Poland in search for a better future, Polish filmmakers have started to produce movies which are invigorating with respect to human solidarity, pursuing opportunities in Poland and not abroad. Movies about the predominance of kindness over evil.
Children are starting to play a predominant part in Polish cinema, i.e. Trick, All Will Be Weel, Hania) demonstrating to the grownups the value of love and that it’s worth fighting for it.