August 31 marked the opening gala of the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. At the ceremony, Jerzy Skolimowski received the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for Jerzy Skolimowski

August 31 marked the opening gala of the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. At the ceremony, Jerzy Skolimowski received the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award was presented by Paolo Baratta, head of the Venice Biennale, and actor Jeremy Irons, who starred in Skolimowski’s 1982 picture Moonlighting.

“I need to make a few more films in order to prove that I deserve this award, so that it’s not taken away from me,” quipped Jerzy Skolimowski in his acceptance speech. He also expressed solidarity with the residents of Amatrice, a town that suffered in the recent earthquake. “This is not a happy time. All I can do is humbly thank you for this award.”

Skolimowski said that Venice has recently become his favourite city on the festival map of the world. At first, as he noted, it was Berlin, where he received the Golden Bear almost 50 years ago. “Then it was Cannes, which was good to me for many years. I showed seven films there, a record of sorts. Then I betrayed Cannes for Venice. I like this city and its atmosphere, which is so different from Cannes; here in Venice the film side is discussed much more than the business side,” said Skolimowski. “It is here that one feels a great interest in film as an art form, rather than a product,” he added.

To accept the award, Jerzy Skolimowski wore a tailor-made tuxedo by Tomasz Ossoliński, who is a big fan of Skolimowski’s work.

“One of the first people to have ever received this exceptional award was my favourite director, Orson Welles. The list of recipients includes an amazing collection of some of the most prominent filmmakers from around the world. I am extremely grateful to the Festival and director Alberto Barbera for the honour of being included in such reputable company. I take this as encouragement to continue working and as a form of recognition for contemporary Polish cinema. I will do my best not to let this success go to my head,” Jerzy Skolimowski told the Polish Film Institute upon receiving news of the award. The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement will also go to French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Jerzy Skolimowski graduated in ethnographic studies from the University of Warsaw, and studied film directing at the Łódź Film School. He has collaborated with some of Poland’s most prominent filmmakers. He wrote the script for Andrzej Wajda’s Niewinni czarodzieje (Innocent Sorcerers) and co-wrote Roman Polański’s acclaimed Nóż w wodzie (Knife in the Water).

Skolimowski’s directing debut was the 1964 feature Rysopis (Identification Marks: None). His later films Walkower (Walkover; 1965) and Bariera (Barrier; 1966) were later dubbed “mental landscapes,” stories of people unsuccessfully searching for their place in society. After the censorship office shelved his 1967 film Ręce do góry (Hands Up), Skolimowski left Poland and began working in Italy, the United Kingdom, and the US. It was in this period that some of his major award-winning films were made. In 1967, the Berlinale jury awarded Skolimowski the Golden Bear for his film Start. His films have also received several awards in Cannes: the jury prize (The Shout; 1978), the award for best screenplay (Moonlighting; 1982), and the special jury prize (The Lightship; 1985). Skolimowski was also nominated for the Golden Lion in Venice for his 1991 film Ferdydurke. In 2003, he received the Polish Film Award (Eagle) for “an independent stance of a Polish filmmaker with a global perspective.”

In 2008, Skolimowski decided to move back to Poland to make Cztery noce z Anną (Four Nights with Anna), starring Kinga Preis. This film went on to open the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes and receive the Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival. It was for this film that Jerzy Skolimowski also received the Best Director award at the 2009 Polish Film Awards, with the award for Best Cinematography going to Cztery noce z Anną (Four Nights with Anna)’s cinematographer Adam Sikora.

At the 67th Venice International Film Festival in 2010, Jerzy Skolimowski received the Special Jury Prize for Essential Killing, a film co-financed by the Polish Film Institute. The film also received the Coppa Volpi prize for Best Actor (Vincent Gallo) and went on to receive multiple awards at film festivals in Poland and abroad, including the Golden Lions for Best Film at the 36th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia. For his work on Essential Killing, Adam Sikora was nominated for the European Film Award. The film also received the Grand Prize (Astor de Oro) at the 25th Mar del Plata International Film Festival in Argentina. The award for Best Actor (Astor de Plata) went to Vincent Gallo, while the film also received the award of the Argentinian Association of Film Critics.

Skolimowski’s most recent feature 11 minut (11 Minutes) screened in Main Competition at the 2015 Venice IFF, and continues its festival circuit to this day.

While renowned mostly for his work in cinema (as director and actor), Jerzy Skolimowski is a versatile artist who has authored stage plays and books of poetry. He is also a painter and a jazz musician.
The Venice Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement has been presented annually since 1969. Winners of this prestigious award include Michelangelo Antonioni, Martin Scorsese, Eric Rohmer, and Andrzej Wajda.

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Translated by Karolina Kołtun