Holland uses the character to explore the ambiguous attitudes of Poles toward Jews during the Nazi occupation of their country. Some Poles were deeply anti-Semitic and helped the Nazis track down Jews for extermination, but others risked to own lives to help Jews.
The director dedicated the film to the more than 6,000 Poles, including Socha, named by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as “Righteous Among the Nations,” an honor reserved for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews.
It’s a third Oscar nomination for 63-year-old Holland, one of the country’s best-known directors, after “Europa Europa” and “Angry Harvest,” both of which also dealt with the Holocaust.
Holland said she felt the nomination defied a “stereotype” that everything has already been said about the Holocaust.
“People react emotionally both in Poland and in the United States. And afterward, the film goes from the heart to the mind and awakens thoughts,” she told news channel TVN24. “People feel the film is enriching.”
The fifth contender is “Monsieur Lazhar,” Canadian director Philippe Falardeau’s story of an Algerian immigrant substitute teacher who helps a group of children get over a death.
It’s the second straight year a filmmaker from Quebec has made the shortlist. Denis Villeneuve was nominated last year for his war drama “Incendies.”
Falardeau said he was overwhelmed by the recognition for the French-language film, adapted from a play by Evelyne de la Cheneliere.
The director likened himself to “a hockey player trying to describe the feeling after he wins the Stanley Cup _ he looks stupid because it is indescribable and unbelievable.”
“So there you are: indescribable and unbelievable,” he said.
“I think I rejoice myself in the fact that an intimate film like ‘Monsieur Lazhar’ can exist alongside major Hollywood productions in the biggest gala in the world,” Falardeau said. “I think it says a lot about the fact that we have to make the movie that we have inside of us and not try to imitate any kind of recipe.”
But he admitted the looming ceremony left him with a dilemma _ “I don’t have a tux.”
This year’s Oscars contest already has an international flavor. The race is led by Martin Scorsese’s Parisian fantasia “Hugo,” with 11 nominations, and “The Artist,” a French-made silent tale of old Hollywood, with 10.
Winners of the 84th annual Oscars will be announced at a Feb. 26 ceremony at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.