The Miscellaneous Chronicles of Gender Equality under Communism: Everyday Experiences of Polish Women as Filmed by Female Documentarians

Misiak, Anna ORCID logoORCID: (2017) The Miscellaneous Chronicles of Gender Equality under Communism: Everyday Experiences of Polish Women as Filmed by Female Documentarians. In: Visible Evidence XXIV, 2 August to 6 August 2017, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Abstract / Summary

Based on research in Polish archives, this paper familiarises an international audience with documentary productions made by women, who under Communism worked at the Documentary Film Studio in Warsaw. Although Polish female documentarians from the era could be counted on the fingers of two hands, intentionally or not, with time they collected a rather abundant audiovisual evidence that opposed the dominant Communist metanarrative of gender equality, which first came to prominence in the immediate post-war decade. Back then, several newsreels and documentaries foregrounded satisfied women—high-achievers both in their jobs and at home—whom the new Soviet-planted government apparently offered with endless opportunities to pursue their lifestyle choices. However from around the 1960s, many factual films—and especially those directed by women—started revealing bleaker experiences of the Polish female. In these documentaries, women often appeared caught between the official utopian discourse of equality and the everyday life in the Catholic society, where gender roles were fixed on biology and as such posed restrictions on the agency of the female. Even though under Communism the majority of Polish women were active in the job market, they rarely came across as equal social players.
I sample examples from films by Krystyna Gryczełowska, Danuta Halladin, Maria Kwiatkowska, Helena Amiradżibi, Irena Kamieńska, who had successful documentary careers, often sealed with domestic festival trophies. My examination of these directors’ creative strategies serves to illustrate how their early subscription to the expectations of imposed gender identities—which initially also dictated some of their subject choices—gradually turned into a subtle discourse of resistance. Several of their titles may contribute to the history of social formations of gender in Poland under Communism, which using Foucault’s (1967) terminology could be classified as ‘heterotopia’, where the clash of socialist ideals of gender equality with patriarchal traditions that determined ordinary female biographies was beyond reconciliation.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Subjects: Film & TV
Film & TV > Film > International Film
History > International
Courses by Department: The School of Film & Television > Film
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Anna Misiak
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2017 15:32
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2023 13:46


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