'Let there be no traces’ is Poland’s candidate for Oscar

Telling the real story of Grzegorz Przemyk, a high school graduate who died as a result of beating by a communist police in 1983 in Warsaw, Jan P. Matuszyński’s movie “Let there be no traces” (“Żeby nie było śladów”) has been nominated Poland’s candidate for the Oscar in the category of the best international film. The decision was announced by Poland’s Oscar Committee on Friday at the Polish Film Institute (PISF) in Warsaw.

Based on a non-fiction book by Cezary Łazarewicz, a read with which the movie shares its title, Mr Matuszyński’s second full-length feature film takes the viewer to the year of 1983 — a time of uncertainty when the communist regime kept the opposition Solidarity movement in check by prolonging the suspension of the martial law whose rules, regardless of the intermission, continued to apply.

“On May 12, 1983, Gegorz Przemyk, son of oppositionist poet Barbara Sadowska, is arrested and severely beaten by a police patrol,” reads the movie description issued by the PISF. Two days later, despite hospitalisation, Grzegorz Przemyk dies in a hospital bed.

“Przemyk dies after two-days-long agony. Being the only witness to the beating, Jurek Popiel, one of Grzegorz’s friends, decides to seek justice and testify against the policemen,” the description reads.

“Initially, the state apparatus, including the Internal Affairs Ministry, downplays the case. Although when over 20,000 people march through the streets of Warsaw with the coffin of deceased Przemyk, the regime decides to use all means against the witness and the victim’s mother to discredit them and prevent Jurek Popiel from testifying before the court. Supervised by the internal affairs minister himself, general Czesław Kiszczak, the operation ‘Junior’ is launched with the main goal to stop Jurek from revealing the truth and shift the blame on the paramedics who transported Przemyk to the hospital following the beating,” the PISF wrote.

The paramedics who tried to save Przemyk’s life received sentences of 2 and 2.5 years in prison in a show trial. Czesław Kiszczak, then Interior Minister, was involved in the cover-up. Written proof of his decision to blame the murder on the paramedics exists.

“An army of security services operatives begins to stalk Jurek and his family, invigilating their private lives 24/7, whereas the media and the prosecutor’s office are directed and intimidated by the regime to publish only ‘the correct messages’. For her part, Barbara Sadowska does not lose hope for justice. In the meantime, state officials and a special group of investigators concert on how to shut the case of Przemyk down,” the PISF wrote.

Starring are Mateusz Górski (as Grzegorz Przemyk), Tomasz Ziętek, Sandra Korzeniak, Agnieszka Grochowska, Jacek Braciak, Robert Więckiewicz. The screenplay was written by Kaja Krawczyk-Wnuk, while the cinematographer is Kacper Fertacz.

The world premiere of “Let there be no traces” is scheduled for September 9 during the Venice International Film Festival. The Polish movie will be pitted against the latest movies by Pedro Almodovar, Paolo Sorrentino and Jane Campion in the main competition.

The Oscar nominations are up for the announcement on February 8, 2022. The 94th Oscar Awards Ceremony will take place on March 27, 2022.

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