Paweł Pawlikowski's Academy Award-winning feature is set in 1960s Poland, a nation damaged and drained by the pain of its past. After surviving the traumatic years of the Second World War, many in Poland were stifled and silenced by the Soviet state. Against this harrowing backdrop, Ida is a restrained and affecting look at identity, kinship and how the violence of the past bleeds into the present.

Ida is a young novice nun living in the remote convent where she was left as a baby. Before she takes her vows, she is sent to meet her last living relative, her hard-drinking, foul-mouthed aunt, Wanda. Ida is inscrutable, sheltered, reserved; Wanda is blunt, brash, and worldly – but together, they travel through Poland’s sparse landscapes to uncover the truth of their lost relatives. 

Released in 2013, Peter Bradshaw described Ida as a film that feels “more like a restored and rediscovered classic than a new movie”. Shot in austere black and white, there is both beauty and harshness in its wintery stillness.

Agata Trzebuchowska, who plays the title role, had no acting experience before Ida. She was spotted by one of Pawlikowski's friends when she was sitting in a Warsaw café, reading quietly. Even though she had no intention of pursuing a career in acting, Trzebuchowska agreed to the film because she was a fan of Pawlikowski’s earlier work. She went on to win several awards for her performance.

At under 90 minutes long, the film has been celebrated as “compact masterpiece” by David Denby in The New Yorker. It was a rare crossover hit, reaching worldwide success and winning an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2015.

Ida has personal resonance for Pawlikowski, who lived in Poland until he emigrated to England at the age of fourteen. He has said that among other concerns, the film is “an attempt to recover the Poland of my childhood”.

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