Among the many gems coming up at The Polish Film Festival this month, one of the most seminal in terms of its immediate political, social and cultural impact is Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Iron. Made in 1981, it won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Known for its blending of drama and actual documentary footage from the Solidarity – Solidarnosc in Polish – trades union movement, Wajda’s classic is shown at the St Anthony Main theatre on Monday 11th and on Wednesday 27th August.
Shot on location in Gdansk, the film was made with the assent of Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who saw the project as the perfect vehicle with which to inform a wider audience about the issues facing the city’s dock workers and the stringent labor laws under which they worked. In the face of an intransigent Polish political leadership led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Walesa’s movement also highlighted ideological fissures across the continent, particularly in Western Europe where the trades’ union leadership was faced with the dilemma of backing their working brethren on the docks, or standing shoulder to shoulder with Poland’s political leadership.
In the case of Britain, as Peter Hitchens argues forcefully in his Broken Compass, the country’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) opted in favor of ideological imperatives and allied with Jarulzelski and the Polish leadership, rather than join hands with Walesa’s workers struggle.
The film’s protagonist is the young Maciej Tomczyk, who is based, it seems, largely on Lech Walesa himself. Seen by the establishment as a dangerous subversive, Tomczyk is repeatedly smeared by journalists in the media who seek to discredit him. Walesa also appears as himself as do a number of uncredited dock workers.
Prices are $10 general admission, $9 for students and seniors and $8 for film society members. For more information, check out the MSP Film site