Andrzej Wajda, Oscar-winning Polish film director, dies at 90

Andrzej Wajda, director of such films as "The Promised Land" and "Katyn," in 2000.
(Paul Morse / Los Angeles Times)

Poland’s leading filmmaker Andrzej Wajda, whose career maneuvering between a repressive communist government and an audience yearning for freedom won him international recognition and an honorary Oscar, has died. He was 90.

Wajda had recently been hospitalized and died Sunday night, his colleague, film director Jacek Bromski, told the Associated Press.

Wajda trod on ground controlled by communist-era censors with “Man of Marble,” which looked at the roots of worker discontent in communist Poland in the 1950s, and “Man of Iron” on the rise of the Solidarity movement.


In 2000, he was awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement. By that time, four of his films, including “Man of Iron” and Katyn,” had been nominated in the foreign film category.

He was considered one of the world’s great filmmakers.

Wajda was witness to war and turbulent decades in his homeland. At the age of 16, he joined the Resistance in World War II. He did so after his father, a cavalry officer, was killed.

After the war, he first studied art and then, in 1950, enrolled in Lodz’s famous film school. His World War II trilogy — “A Generation” (1954), “Kanal” (1957) and, most notably, “Ashes and Diamonds” (1958) — brought him international acclaim.

In an interview with The Times in 2000, just before accepting the Oscar, Wajda said be believed “a real director is worth only as much as his latest film, and every latest film may be his last.”

“I’m so happy with my life and with all the opportunities given me,” he went on to add. “If you were to ask me what I am most proud of, I would say it is because I am here to receive this honor.


“I live in a distant land and create in an unknown language, and here I am, talking to you, getting recognition and getting an Oscar. There is no greater satisfaction than being honored by so many famous American filmmakers. Perhaps there is a universal language in film after all.”

Wajda’s last movie “Afterimage,” a biopic about an avant-garde artist, was recently chosen as Poland’s official entry for the 2016 Oscar for best foreign language film.