LOS ANGELES (AP) — Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski went from directing a black-and-white movie that inspires silent contemplation to being at the "epicenter of noise," the Oscars, he said visibly amused, as he accepted the prize for best foreign film for "Ida".
"How did I get here," he said.
The win marks the first foreign language Oscar for Poland despite nine previous nominations and a rich history of filmmaking, including by renowned directors like Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polanski.
"It's thrilling. It's fantastic. We have a great tradition of films. Golden ages. But no Oscars," Pawlikowski said backstage.
The tautly made "Ida," a period film that plunges into a dark chapter of Polish history of German occupation during World War II via a young nun who discovers her family's secrets from the era, emerged as one of the critical hits of 2014. Pawlikowski's film also was nominated for its cinematography.
He said he hoped his award would inspire other Polish filmmakers to take more risks and do something, "original and brave."
The director had criticized the press days before for labeling his film a "Holocaust movie," going so far as to say "Ida" had been "hijacked for other purposes" along with all the "fuss and attention."
On-stage Sunday night, he made no mention of his concerns.
Backstage, when asked about his film striking a chord with Israel based on its subject matter concerning the Holocaust, the director reiterated he didn't consider his story a Holocaust story.
"For me, the film is very Polish," he said. "It's about different versions of Polish-ness."
"It's about jazz and rock and roll as well," he added. "I wouldn't make a film for one reason."
Pawlikowski found that Polish-ness in his crew, too, a bunch of different characters including at least one whose nickname translated to, "water heater," who he said carried the film with their "insurgent spirit."
"You are what I love about Poland. Your resilient courage is brave and funny. And you can take a drink," he said on stage.
The music had started to push the director off stage but he kept going long enough to thank his Polish countrymen watching the awards show at home and his children.
"I was about to say this kitch thing that Americans would have loved," he joked backstage. But he did manage a tribute as he walked off stage with his Oscar in hand.
"I love you. You are the main prize," he told his children.
Associated Press reporter Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.