Aleksander Ford

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Filmmaker, screenwriter, organizer.

Born Moyshe Lipshutz in 1908 in Kiev. Studied art history. 1929-1935 founding member of Start. 1930 Lodz, the Polish Manchester is a classic among Polish documentaries, capturing as it does the life of the working-class districts in his birthplace. 1930 first feature film 'Mascot'. 1932 Legion ulicy [The Street Legion] documentary, a social study of the life of Warsaw newsboys. 1933 travels to Palestine, sends footage back to Poland where it is edited into newsreels and a short feature. 'Sabra' [Ḥalutsim], a fictional narrative on the Jewish–Arab conflict that starred Hanna Rovina and other members of Habimah, released in Warsaw in both Polish and Hebrew versions. 1936 'We’re on Our Way' [Mir kumen on; Droga młodych], a Yiddish-language staged documentary on the Jewish Labor Bund’s Medem Sanatorium for children, banned altogether, although there were evidently a number of clandestine or private screenings; shown in France thanks to Jean Painlevé. 1937 with Zarzynski 'People of the Vistula', depicting the life of workers on the Vistula river, adapted from the novel 'Vistula' by Jerzy Kornacki and Helena Boguszewska of City Outskirts group.

1939 refuses enlistment under General Anders who supports the Western Allies and escapes to the Soviet Union, 1940-43 training films for the Red Army. Works closely with Bossak to establish a film unit for the Soviet-sponsored People's Army of Poland in the USSR [Czołówka Filmowa Ludowego Wojska Polskiego, simply Czołówka; spearhead], Ford being appointed its head in July 1943; operating with just one camera they make the regular Polish Film Journals newsreels.

July 1944 put in charge of the Film Division at the newly formed governmental Department of Information and Propaganda, responsible for movie theatres, film distribution, promotion of culture and education by the means of film and most of all an institution obliged to rebuild the film industry that was ruined. 1945 the Department becomes a Ministry, the Film Division is renamed Department of Film Propaganda, and chooses to nationalize the film industry. November 1945 director of the nationalized Film Polski company, which in fact replaced the earlier Department of Film Propaganda, holding enormous sway over the country's entire film industry, with full monopoly in production, distribution and exhibition of movies in Poland, rebuilds most of the film production infrastructure; Polanski in his biography: "They included some extremely competent people, notably Aleksander Ford, a veteran party member, who was then an orthodox Stalinist. [..] The real power broker during the immediate postwar period was Ford himself, who established a small film empire of his own". 1947 resigns from Film Polski after the widespread criticism. 1948–68 professor at the National Film School in Łódź, where Polanski is among his students. 1952 socialist realist 'The Youth of Chopin' [Mlodosc Chopina], praised by Party officials. 1960 'Knights of the Teutonic Order' [Krzyzacy] blockbuster.

April 1968 accused of anti-socialist activity for working on his 1958 film 'Eighth Day of the Week' in West Germany, refuses to state publicly his ideological mistakes and express self-criticism, expelled from the Communist Party, and denied to perform any function in film, after party leaders arrived at the Filmmakers' union meeting and dismissed all the people who were in charge of film production units which had been present in Poland since the 1956 Polish October. March 1969 anti-Semitic campaign initiated by the First Party Secretary Gomulka forces him to emigrate; moves to Israel for two years, later to Germany and Denmark, and eventually settles in the United States. 1969 blacklisted by the Polish communist government, and excluded from discussions and analysis of Polish filmmaking. Makes two more films, both commercial and critical failures. Isolated, 1980 commits suicide in Naples, Florida.

See also: Poland#Experimental_film.2C_avant-garde_film