could a mountaineering Polish dissident go to most effectively fight Communism
in the 1980s? Obviously Afghanistan. Of course, getting there was no easy feat
and staying alive once he arrived was even trickier. However, the late Adam
Jacek Winker was not easily dissuaded. Anca Damian tells his extraordinary
story in the animated documentary The
Magic Mountain (trailer
which screens as part of the AFI’s 2015 EU Film Showcase.
Winker, the opposing the spread of Communism was a decidedly personal matter.
His cousin and uncle were among those murdered by the Soviets at Katyn. He was
able to get out of Poland while the getting was relatively good, but he also
felt guilty about abandoning his homeland in a time of prolonged suffering. As
a result, he was always looking for a way to take the fight back to the
Soviets. While living in Paris, he was a bit of a gadfly, providing unwanted
reality checks for the French Communists’ Labor Day festivities, but he was
truly called to Afghanistan.
Winker only had a French “refugee” passport, getting to Afghanistan, by way of
Pakistan, was a complicated process. However, once there, Winker fell in with
the Mujahedeen relatively quickly. He had the extreme good fortune to join up
with Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, the “Lion of Panjshir,” an ardent foe of
Communism, who later rejected the Taliban’s oppressive fundamentalism just as
vigorously. Alas, Mountain also
serves as an elegy to the assassinated Massoud, as well as his somewhat
eccentric Polish friend and comrade.
some the most poignant moments of Mountain
focus on Winker’s efforts to promote and then memorialize the fallen Afghan
hero. Yet, with respects to her central figure, Damian never descends into
blinkered hagiography. Winker’s fault are readily identified, making him the
stuff of classical tragedy, but viewers will understand where his zeal came
from, and admire him for harnessing it.
archival photos of Winker and Massoud into the distinctive and diverse work of
its team of animators and artists, including Theodore Ushev, Tomek Ducki, Matei
Focsa Neagoe, Dan Panaitescu, and Raluca Popa. Frankly, a few sequences are almost
excessively stylized to the point of self-defeating abstraction, but other
visuals are absolutely arresting. Regardless, the film is always powered along
by its sweepingly dramatic narrative.
Winker really was a character—a heroic
character. He was also a principled individualist, who did not let his
experiences in Afghanistan blind him to the dangers of Islamist ideology in his
final years. Basically, he stayed on the right side of history, every step of
the way, making his life story quite fascinating and instructive. Very highly
recommended for fans of animation and biographical documentaries, The Magic Mountain screens this Saturday
(12/12) as part of the AFI’s EU Film Showcase.
Labels: Adam Jacek Winker, Afghanistan, AFI EU Showcase '15, Animated films, Communism, Documentary