This witty documentary was the Grand Prix winner at the Cracow Film Festival in 1965. After a short voice-over introduction by an anonymous man, Halladin passes the narration to children from impoverished Twarda Street in Warsaw, where pre-war tenement houses are about to be demolished and replaced by tower blocks.
My Street clearly demonstrates that from very early age these children are shaped by the context of their lives. They display gratefulness to their families for the love they receive and never complain about poverty. They also appreciate their immediate surroundings, as well as the local history.
The children’s sense of attachment to place becomes especially prominent in the touching conclusion to the film, when one of the girls says, ‘If somebody said that my street was ugly, I’d say that my street’s the best. It may be ugly, there may be run down houses there and lots of rubble, ugly to everyone else, but I will always say that to me it is the most beautiful.’
Despite its melancholic tones, the film also provides an insight into the perceptions of accepted male and female gender roles in the 1960s Polish society. Unaware of larger political or religious discourses, the children confirm that they have already internalised the dominant male and female identities: ‘the gents, men, have more time… women tend to look after children more. And a man may go somewhere and not come back the whole day. Sometimes he’ll meet his wife, and she’ll shout at him. And the man isn’t bothered and goes on as he did before’.
Female responsibility to the household and her lack of personal freedom of choice are more than apparent already to these little observers. Halladin doesn’t contest their perception either, through visuals or commentary, confirming that naturalised gender difference was an integral part of the society her camera probed.
My Street is available on DVD with English subtitles.