The claim that Agata Buzek owes her meteoric ascent to the protective umbrella provided by her father, former Polish prime minister and current president of the European Parliament, now looks preposterous. On 15 February, the Berlinale named Agata a Shooting Star 2010, admitting her to the prestigious ranks of Europe’s 10 best film actors.

Was that a testimony to the success of Polish cinema? By all means, and all the more so seeing as not a single Polish production made it into the limelight at the 60th International Film Festival in Berlin. Agata Buzek has had a very busy week. But with the prize in her pocket, even more work awaits her in 2010: the Shooting Stars will be featured front and centre all year long in the world cinema, especially at the big international festivals. Well, that’s the price of fame. After all, they have been appointed “ambassadors of European cinema”.

First and foremost – an actress

Agata Buzek began dreaming of appearing on the silver screen when she was only an adolescent attending ballet school in Gliwice, then the Dorota Pomykała Dramatic Arts Workshop in Katowice. By the time she graduated from the Warsaw Drama Academy in 1999, she already had several screen credits under her belt, but the real kudos were yet to come. In 2001, her performance as Pavetta in The Witcher was deemed “interesting” by the critics, even though this adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s short stories did not enthral the moviegoing public. Then 2002 was a triumphant year for our heroine: she played Klara in Andrzej Wajda’s Zemsta (Vengeance), a period-piece gem based on the play by Aleksander Fredro. For her performance as the buoyant mistress, she was nominated for an Eagle Award for best supporting actress by the jury of the Polish Film Academy.

“I am, first and foremost, an actress, which doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to the world around me,” declared Agata Buzek six years ago. In 2004, as a matter of fact, the actress signed on to serve as an outside observer of the Ukrainian presidential elections. She also lent her support to the “Solidarity with Belarus” movement, then took part in a Polish Humanitarian Action fundraising campaign to build wells in the Sudan. As if all that weren’t enough, the actress is also a committed member of Viva, an animal rights foundation.

Most illustrious Polish actress

After Glina (The Cop) (2003), Valerie (2006), Tajemnica twierdzy szyfrów (The Mystery of Code Fortress) (2007), Ryś (The Lynx) (2007), and Teraz albo nigdy (Now or Never) (2008), her true breakthrough came a year ago, whenReverse, by Borys Lankosz, carted off seven Golden Lions at the 34th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia [Poland’s most prestigious festival]. Agata Buzek won two awards: best actress and the Zbyszek Cybulski Audience Award.

The shooting of Reverse, a thriller set in Stalinist Poland, gave full rein to her thespian talent. She does a perfect job of playing Sabina, an insignificant little grey mouse working for a Polish publishing house, who, in a paroxysm of emotion, poisons her demonic lover (Marcin Dorociński), an internal security service officer. Her performance succeeded in winning over not only the public, but even the perennially dissatisfied critics.

So how shall we describe Agata Buzek, the most illustrious Polish actress of recent memory? Indifferent to fame, absent from the tabloids, discreet and, judging from her interviews, quite simply reasonable. Nature has endowed her with remarkable beauty (at 23 she as a fashion model in Paris) and a real personality (she publicly owns up to her Catholicism). Not a bad Polish calling card in the world of cinema.