At face value, many of these films look simply black and white. But behind their monochrome palette, you’ll quickly discern the different tones between the two opposites of the top red and the bottom grey to discover the history of ordinary people of all hues, some anonymous and some whose names have been recorded. These are chronicles of individual mindsets and various mechanisms of survival that otherwise would’ve disappeared.
Countering the stereotypical western tendency to imagine citizens of Communist countries as bleak and uniform in their suffering from the abuses of the regime, many of these titles convey a picture of the multi-layered society where individual biographies are immensely diverse.
The people in front of these cameras pursue their career paths, engage in certain leisure activities or develop private relationships according to personal preferences. In other words, as you’ll discover, these films reveal a space—neither strictly social nor mental—which allowed individuals to take charge of their biographies. It reconciled them to carry on with their lives, even when overcoming political and economic limitations appeared beyond the bounds of possibility.
Next to the myriads of different characters and their stories, these shorts also present a whole range of creative strategies of capturing reality on film: from staged documentaries to purely observational pieces, from compilations and poetic montages with stylised imagery to authoritative films with voice-over narrators.
What is presented here has often been determined by the availability of archive materials. That’s why photos from some films are missing–particularly from those made in the immediate post-war period. The focus on film representations of both the everyday life and the experiences of women under Communism has influenced the overall selection of names, titles and photos. As such, there is a possibility that some great Polish documentaries made by women aren’t included here.
Because this project is by no means finished, some pieces of information may still be incomplete and you’re welcome to fill in any gaps. Just get in touch.
This site is an invitation for you to look at the little-known part of film history. Perhaps you’ll feel satisfied after a quick scan, or you’ll set off into the unexplored territory of researching Eastern European film and the past of the region. Maybe you’ll even begin to investigate the history of female documentarians.
Either way, enjoy it!