Above all, Sławomir Grünberg wants his film Karski & The Lords of Humanity to reach those who have never heard about the courier from Warsaw before. A full-length document will premiere in Poland on 24th April 2015.
According to the director, the 72-minute-long film differs from other documentaries in that it contains story-enriching animated elements.
For a long time, I struggled to choose the concept, as to how to show history which took place over 70 years ago, when the main character is dead. I didn’t want to cast actors in historical scenes, because I knew from experience that this doesn’t work out very often. It wasn’t until 2009 that I watched Waltz with Bashir with animations by Yoni Goodman, that I decided this was the best way.
– Grünberg explained.
Tomek Niedźwiedź from Badi Badi created Karski & The Lords of Humanity's animations, which are used to portray historical scenes, for example when Jan Karski gets into the Warsaw ghetto, he’s shown speaking to representatives of the Jewish organisation, and the viewer can hear Karski’s voice from interviews, which are also used in the film.
The animations reconstruct what Karski said, what he spoke about. The transition between animation and archival materials and interviews creates a new film reality
– the director emphasised.
The director also explained that the film’s title mirrors what Karski said – especially after meeting the American president Franklin D. Roosevelt and the British Foreign Minister, Anthony Eden.
This 25-year old boy called the world’s fate decision makers “the lords of humanity” and we quote this in the film.
– Grünberg added.
Contrary to what Karski said, what he communicated to the world’s leaders was in fact very important. He changed their minds, and this, according to historians, saved lives of many people. This is the film’s punchline. Unfortunately, these days there are also mass-murders carried out on religious and racial backgrounds, and the world is looking at it indifferently, and a Karski is most obviously missing.
– the producer assessed.
To prepare for the film, Grünberg studied the resources at Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He used, amongst others, archives from Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah and The Karski Report, Martin Smith’s Messenger from Poland and the interviews from E. Thomas Wood’s book Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust, which had never previously been incorporated into a film. The documentary also comprises archival scenes from the Warsaw ghetto and recordings of interviews with people who knew Karski personally, like Zbigniew Brzeziński, Władysław Bartoszewski and Karski’s students from Warsaw.
I think that Karski is a timeless, universal hero, who should become a role model for the world’s young generation. The animation brings him closer, as is the fact that the film’s distributor, Kino Świat, promotes the film as a story about a Polish James Bond. This is actually a quote from Wood, who said that Karski’s dramatic experiences make him resemble the character from Bond series.
– the director explained.
Grünberg is a New York-based director, a laureate of an Emmy for his documentary School Prayer: A Community At War. With his current Polish-American project he wishes to reach all of those, who have never heard about the Polish Underground State’s emissary; to foreign as well as Polish audiences. As the director said, young people seek for the meaning of life and moral role models. His film shows that sometimes it’s worth asking a simple question: if an individual can change the world.
Karski & The Lords of Humanity will be screened in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews on 23 April 2015. The next day, on Jan Karski’s 101st birth anniversary, the film will premiere in 15 cinemas across Poland.
As Grünberg pointed out, the Polish Ministry of National Education was the film's patron. It is to send information about the documentary to six thousand schools, with an appeal to the teachers to acquaint students with the film.
The director also wants to distribute his film across the USA. Since he is also considering applying for an Oscar, the co-producer, Polish National Television, suspended its broadcast to allow the documentary compete for the prestigious award.
Source: PAP - Andrzej Dobrowolski, edit. AW, transl. Agata Dudek, 20/04/15.