New Polish movie honors Lech Walesa

Poland’s Oscar-winning filmmaker, Andrzej Wajda, talks about his latest film, “Walesa: Man of Hope.”

Solidarity leader Lech Walesa has largely fallen from grace in the eyes of his Polish countrymen.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Andrzej Wajda says he wants to restore his longtime friend as Poland’s hero in his latest movie, which he calls the hardest of his life.

“Walesa: Man of Hope” is the last part of the Polish cineaste’s trilogy about how worker disillusionment with communism helped bring about the system’s demise. It shows how Walesa grew from a regular worker at a time of violent food protests to a charismatic strike leader who negotiated with communist authorities and finally to national hero and international statesman who won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize.

The movie had its world premiere this month at the 70th Venice Film Festival. Meanwhile, Wajda said that he is laying the groundwork for screenings in his homeland, planned for October.

“I think that this false image of Lech as the source of trouble and defeat must not be spread around,” said the 87-year-old Wajda. “No one seems to remember any- more that he brought us freedom.”

Walesa’s reputation was badly tarnished in Poland during an authoritarian 1990-95 presidency in which he clashed with consecutive governments, alienated friends and advisers and angered the Poles with welfare promises that he could not keep.

He has also faced accusations of collaboration with the communists, which he denied and have been dismissed by a special screening court.

Amid the controversies, Wajda said he felt a need to present the true Walesa to the world and remind people of the Solidarity leader’s enduring legacy.

“I am an old man, an old film director, and this might be the last film in my life,” he said. “But I would not want to part with life without having made this movie. This is my duty.”

In 1995 Walesa bitterly lost his re-election bid to former communist Aleksander Kwasniewski and has withdrawn from active politics. He lectures around the world about Poland’s peaceful transformation to democracy, culminating in June 1989 general elections.

That vote paved the way for similar change in other countries of the communist bloc.