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France pays tribute to Polish film giant Andrzej Wajda

Andrzej Wajda at a press conference promoting his film Walesa in 2011
Andrzej Wajda at a press conference promoting his film Walesa in 2011 Reuters/Kacper Pempel

French ministers and cultural figures paid tribute Monday to Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda, who died on Sunday at the age of 90.

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France has lost a "great friend" who had been recognised by the Cannes film festival early in his career, Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay said, hailing a "great director" who was a "European conscience".

"His life and his work were combined in the same heroic fight for freedom," she tweeted. "They should inspire us to e enlighten ourselves at a time when some of Europe's people are tempted to renounce what brings them together, the love of freedom."

Wajda's Man of Iron, a fictionalised account of the rise of the Solidarity trade union under the post-war communist regime, won the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1981.

"The uncontested master of Polish cinema, Andrzej Wajda was always a friend," former festival president Gilles Jacob told the AFP news agency. "He was a baroque filmmaker of a powerful lyricism. He was also the conscience of a whole people. He accompanied the somersaults of his country's history."

Wajda's second feature film Kanal, the first movie ever made about the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, won a prize at Cannes in 1957, while 2016's Afterimage was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and will represent Poland for the best director's Oscar this year.

Wajda was a "major political conscience, always in phase with Poland's history", National Cinema Centre president Frédérique Bredin said.

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