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Controversy Looms As Work Begins On Polish Film About Smolensk Plane Crash

Russian soldiers guard the site of a plane crash near the Russian city of Smolensk, which killed 96 people in 2010.
Russian soldiers guard the site of a plane crash near the Russian city of Smolensk, which killed 96 people in 2010.
Shooting is set to begin on a controversial new film depicting the events surrounding the Smolensk air disaster in 2010 that killed 96 people, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

Director Antoni Krauze told reporters in December that he hoped his film would present "new evidence that this tragedy was not just a plane crash."

Conspiracy theories abound in Poland about the air disaster, which claimed the lives of dozens of the country's political and military elite.

Sensitivities surrounding the incident have also been heightened by the fact that the crash victims had been traveling to a memorial ceremony for those who died in the 1940 Katyn massacre, in which thousands of Polish intellectuals and military officers were killed by Soviet secret police.

Although Russian and Polish investigators concluded that the crash occurred as a result of pilot error and poor weather conditions, many still maintain that the incident was caused by two explosions in the last phase of the flight.

Some even claim that the crash was actually a Russian "declaration of war" against Poland, while there are others who insist it was an elaborate coup operation designed to transform Poland's ruling elite.
Polish film director Antoni Krauze
Polish film director Antoni Krauze

Krauze's film is expected to indulge these theories by basing the plot around the efforts of a young journalist wading her way through an "avalanche of lies" as she endeavors to "seek the truth at all costs" about the crash.

The project, which is being partly funded by public donations, has been criticized by Poland's culture minister, Bogan Zdrojewski, among others.

Expressing concern that the venture had become "politicized," Zdrojewski suggested that it was too early to make a movie about the causes of the disaster.

“Movies about characters and events that are still fresh in the memory are very difficult,” he told Polish Radio.

Director Antoni Krauze is no stranger to controversy. His last film, "Black Thursday," which looked at a massacre of striking workers in 1970 by communist authorities, was hugely successful but hit a nerve in Polish society.

He remains defiant about criticism of the Smolensk project, saying it was to be expected that "articles and narrative mainstream media would [take an] unfavorable view" of his efforts.

He even welcomed the attacks on his film, describing them as a "gift" because it was helping to disseminate information about the project.

Krauze's movie is due to be completed later this year and its world premiere is scheduled for April 10, 2014 -- the fourth anniversary of the Smolensk disaster.

-- Coilin O'Connor

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