Having spent almost half a year in the archive in Warsaw, mostly in a dark room watching the documentaries, I came to a conclusion that many historical accounts still glossed over some filmmakers, or never approached them in a systematic way.
What stood out among such cases was the output of female documentary film directors— women whose creative work offers an insightful perspective on the society functioning under the imposed regime. Although theirs isn’t always a consistent vision, their standpoints are equally, if not more, interesting than those in the more discussed documentaries made by men.
At the Documentary Film Studio in Warsaw male film directors by far outnumbered the female ones, who could be counted using the fingers of two hands. Their work, however, evidences a comparable creative effort and success as that of their male counterparts. With multiple festival awards to their names, the women exhibited at least corresponding productivity, matched by aesthetic and thematic innovation.
The cameras of female documentarians captured huge amounts of individual everyday experiences, sometimes those that were missed by male directors. Their stories dwelled into lifestyles and mindsets of their screen subjects with focus on diverse mechanisms of survival, developed to pursue individual goals in restrictive political conditions.
Therefore, the audiovisual history of everyday life under Communism in their documentaries appears as fascinating as that in films made by men. It is this particular part of my research that I present here.
Focusing on selected films made by the Polish female documentarians, this site intends to promote their work and to encourage further research. It shows their output in cultural, professional and political contexts, adding to the English-language history of Polish cinema by turning attention to its overlooked part.
Whereas the subject of women in Polish narrative films has been analysed in English-language books such as Women in Polish Cinema (2006), female documentarians from the country haven’t yet had one dedicated resource.
Since 2000, some Polish academics and critics have published a few profiles of female documentarians, as well as chapters on their work. But these are scattered and always difficult to find. Recently, Urszula Tes wrote a book on Irena Kamieńska (1928-2016), but there are no other such publications on the remaining filmmakers. This site is an attempt to at least partly address this gap in research.
Although what you see here is only a fragment of my Life under Communism project, this may be its most meaningful contribution to the history of cinema.