Ida is one of the most widely hailed Polish films in recent memory. Released in 2013, Ida tells the story of a young woman, Anna, in Poland in 1962 who was brought up in a convent and is about to take her vows to become a nun. She goes on a trip to meet her aunt, Wanda, the only surviving member of her family after the Nazi occupation during World War Two. Wanda reveals to Anna that she is in fact Jewish, and the two women travel through Poland to discover the fate of their family.

The film’s director, Paweł Pawlikowski, has lived in England since his teenage years, and Ida was his first Polish-language film. He wrote the script himself—originally in English—very loosely based on the life of Helena Wolińska-Brus. Pawlikowski’s father was also Jewish, though Pawlikowski did not find this out until his late teens and does not cite this as a major influence on the film. He has said that the film was an attempt to rediscover the Poland he left behind when he was young.

The drama has received rave reviews from Polish and international audiences: the New Yorker called it a “masterpiece,” and The Telegraph called it “eerily perfect.” It was nominated for 81 awards and won 65. These included the Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film and four Polish Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress.

The film has also attracted significant controversy in Poland. When it was broadcast on TVP (Polish Public Television) in Poland, it was preceded by a 12-minute broadcast accused the film of defaming Poland and presenting a biased viewpoint that exaggerated Poles’ negative actions toward Jews during World War Two. The Polish Directors’ Guild responded to that editorial broadcast with a letter of protest.

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Director: Paweł Pawlikowski
Stars: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska
Production company: Canal+ Polska, Danish Film Institute, Eurimages
Box office take: $3.8 million (Poland)

Official trailer:

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Ida

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS’s Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.