In our third and final Hot Docs spotlight we look at the film War Games and the Man Who Stopped Them by Director Dariusz Jablonski. The film tells the story of a Polish spy who some believe prevented a nuclear holocaust by helping to avert WWIII.
The film Premiers on Friday May 7th at 6:45 pm at the ROM theatre and screens again on the 8th of May at 7pm at Cumberland 2. For ticket information visit the Hot Docs website or enter our contest to win tickets (please see the bottom of this post.)
Colonel Ryszard Jerzy Kukliński (1930-2004)
„In the past 40 years, no one in the World did more harm to the communism than this Pole”
— CIA director Wiliam Casey in a letter to the president Ronald Reagan.
War Games and the Man Who Stopped Them is a uniquely constructed portrait of the Polish Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, who provided the CIA with more than 40,000 strategic documents from the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War. Was he a traitor, or the savior of Poland?
The Polish documentary filmmaker Dariusz Jablonski begins his story of the colonel in 2004, when he was supposed to interview him for the very first time. It turns out that Kuklinski has just died, and at the request of the colonel’s wheelchair-bound wife, Jablonski agrees to take care of his ashes.
He talks with a considerable number of closely involved ex-servicemen — from the U.S. head of espionage General William E. Odom to the Warsaw Pact Commander-in-Chief Viktor Kulikov, the Polish General Wojciech Jaruzelski, and former Polish President Lech Walesa.
These interviews paint a picture of an idealistic man who saved Europe from a Third World War, but who also led a tragic life. In addition to the extensive archive footage, Jablonski expounds on the initial meetings in voice-over, which he films with a small, often half-hidden camera. Subsequently, we see the official, tightly-framed interviews, over which he invariably employs an effect that suggests the shadow of Venetian blinds.
Photos of Kuklinski come to life with 3D motion effects, and the recurring theme of a war game calls on the viewer to actively pass judgment on Kuklinski’s choice.
In 1972, when Kukliński decided to make a contact with the CIA, he had had over twenty years of services in the ranks of the Polish Army, totally subordinated to political interests of the Soviets…
…For a nine long years of an intensive cooperation Kukliński handed over to Americans over 40 thousand of the top secret Warsaw Pact documents. The position he had in General Staff of Polish
Army had made him one of the most important sources of information that the western world had in the soviet block in the whole cold war era….
… After the Solidarity movement was created, Kukliński kept informing Washington about the next stages of preparation of introducing martial law. In November 1981, threatened by unmasking, he took his wife and sons and they were evacuated to Berlin. Three years later, in a secret court trial the Warsaw Military Court sentenced him to death. It was done without his presence at the trail…
… In 1990 the death sentence was changed into the sentence of 25 years in prison. Five years later the sentence was cancelled and the rank of colonel was restored to Kukliński. He visited Poland in 1998 but spent the last years of his life in the USA…
… Despite of awarding him with honorary Kraków and Gdańsk citizenship and burying his ashes at Person of Merit Avenue at Powązki Military Cemetary in Warsaw, colonel Kukliński’s case still stirs up controversy…
Antoni Dudek, historic consultant in the film
Kukliński had access to details of Soviet plans for attacking and conquering Western Europe. These anticipated that Poland would be sacrificed as a buffer zone and would be expected to take from 400 to 600 nuclear hits from Western forces. He promoted an option for Polish army officers to collaborate with NATO to prevent this. Due to the de facto Soviet occupation and infiltration of Poland in communist times, Polish interests could only be promoted secretly at the time. It was for this reason that he approached the CIA on his own initiative.
Kukliński’s information had a major impact on NATO’s military plans in Europe, which were altered on the basis of his inputs and suggestions. These changes would have decreased the risk of the nuclear response on Poland in the event of planned Soviet invasion on Western Europe
Kukliński remains a very controversial figure for many Poles. Some consider him a national hero, some a traitor. Some are of the opinion that by revealing military plans to the Americans, he foiled a planned Soviet invasion of Poland in 1981 (resulting in the lesser evil of the martial law), and in this way may have helped prevent the start of a World War III.
This is difficult to judge, as the causes of the events surrounding the 1981 martial law are still hotly disputed by historians.
He died from a stroke at the age of 73 in a Tampa, Florida, hospital, in 2004. He was buried June 19, 2004 in the row of honour in the Powązki military cemetery in Warsaw, Poland, along with his son Waldemar. Source: Wikipedia
Interviewed in the film – in order of appearance:
Hanna Kuklińska – Wife
Col. Stanisław Radaj – a colleague of Kukliński from the General Staff of the Polish Army
Walter Lang – a CIA officer under US Army cover in Germany in 1972
Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski – Minister of Defence, 1968-1983
General Secretary of the Communist Party, 1981-1989
Gen. Wacław Szklarski – Kukliński’s direct commander
Chief of the Board of Operations of the General Staff of the Polish Army in the 70’s
Gen.William E. Odom – military assistant in the Carter White House to Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1977-1981
James Simon – a senior CIA officer specializing in Soviet military issues in the 70’s
Aris Pappas – CIA analyst 1975-2003
Gen. Viktor Anoshkin – Marshal Kulikov’s aide-de-camp
Gen. Viktor Gribkov – Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Warsaw Pact, 1976-1989
Marshal Viktor Kulikov – Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Warsaw Pact, 1977-1989
Gen Antoni Jasiński – Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Army, 1968-1984
Col. Les Griggs – U.S. Army intelligence officer East Europe specialist
Keith Melton – intelligence historian and author
Gen. Czesław Kiszczak – Chief of Intelligence and Counter-intelligence of the Polish Army, 1972-1981 Polish Minister of Internal Affairs, 1981-1990
Benjamin Fisher – Former Chief Historian, CIA
David Forden – CIA officer managing the Kukliński operation, 1973-1978, 1981
Radosław Sikorski – Polish Minister of National Defence, 2005-2007
Roman Barszcz – friend of Kukliński
Tom Ryan – CIA officer, Chief of the station in Warsaw, 1980-1982
Lucille Ryan – Tom Ryan’s wife
Sue Burgraff – CIA officer, case officer in Warsaw, 1977-1981
Deputy Chief of the station in Warsaw, 1981-1982
Lech Wałęsa – Leader of Solidarity, 1981-1990
First President of freed Poland, 1990-1995
Jan Nowak-Jeziorański – head of the Polish Section of the Radio Free Europe, 1952-1975, ‘Courier from Warsaw’ during WWII
Prof. Zbigniew Brzeziński – National Security Adviser to U.S. President Carter 1977-1981
Prof. Richard Pipes – Soviet Affairs Adviser to U.S. President Reagan 1981-1982
Gen. Florian Siwicki – Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Army 1973-1983
Mary Lou Cunningham – Kukliński’s neighbour in the USA
Wendy Roth – U.S. friend of Kukliński
Piotr Daniuk – Prosecutor in the Kukliński case 1981-1984
Jerzy Urban – Gen. Jaruzelski’s Government Spokesman 1981-1989
Richard Davies – U.S. Ambassador to Poland 1973-1978
About the Director:
DARIUSZ JABŁOŃSKI – Director
Director and producer, was studying at the Directing Department of the Film Academy in Lodz. He worked on the biggest projects of polish cinematography of the 80`s he was a 1st Assistant Director on Decalogue by Krzysztof Kieslowski.
In 1990 he has founded one of the first and leading independent production companies in Poland, Apple Film Production, which to date has produced many feature films documentaries and TV series.
Jablonski is also an initiator of Polish Film Awards and founder of the Independent Film Foundation, established to promote Polish films and their authors in Poland and abroad. He is a member of the European Film Academy and Polish Film Academy.
WIN Tickets to the Premiere !!!
For your chance to win a pair of tickets to see the May 7th premiere screening of War Games and the Man Who Stopped Them send an email to: email@example.com with the subject line: “Hot Docs – CONTEST.” Please include your full name and phone number in the email.
The deadline is midnight, Wednesday May 5th, 2010. A winner will be drawn at random.