“The Prince and the Dybbuk,” a cinematic journey on the trail of filmmaker and “human chameleon” Michal Waszynski who fled intolerance and persecution by continually changing his identity and rejecting his Jewish roots, has won first prize for Best Documentary about Film at the 74th Venice International Film Festival.
Directed by Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski, the film traces the extraordinary artistic career of Jewish Polish filmmaker and producer Michał Waszyński (1904-1965), who was known as “the prince” for his impeccable manners. Waszyński was a prolific film director in prewar Poland – in the 1930s he directed 37 of the 147 films made in Poland in that decade, including the Yiddish-language film Dybbuk.
Born into a Jewish family in Kowel, now northwestern Ukraine, as Moshe Waks, Waszynski converted to Catholicism. During World War II, he joined the Polish Army of Gen. Władysław Anders and became a member of its film unit, catching on camera the 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino. He later married an Italian countess, directed Italian movies, and produced Hollywood films starring Claudia Cardinale and Sophia Loren, credited as Michael Waszynski. His credits include “The Quiet American” (1958) (associate producer), “El Cid” (1961), and “The Fall of the Roman Empire” (1964) (executive producer and associate producer).