When Politics Tipped the Scales: Locating Polish Documentary Films from the 1940s

Misiak, Anna ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7153-944X (2018) When Politics Tipped the Scales: Locating Polish Documentary Films from the 1940s. Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television, 38 (4). pp. 762-786. ISSN 1465-3451

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01439685.2017.1414998

Abstract / Summary

This article introduces English-language readers to the 1940s history of documentary film in post-war Poland. It fills a gap in cinema history, as narrated by western scholars and critics, where the described pioneering creativity of factual filmmakers has suffered from misrecognition. The films discussed here have largely been excluded from the grand history of world cinema.

The author re-discovers filmmaking practices that often broke new grounds in terms of creativity and modes of representation, long before similar documentary tactics came to prominence in Western Europe and America. The formal and thematic choices made by the 1940s filmmakers fuelled the future growth of the Polish School of Documentary. In spite of repressive censorship and close political scrutiny, these directors produced numerous subjective film visions of the social reality around them. Some worked in line with the political propaganda; others capitalised on the available margins of creative freedom.

Today, these somewhat forgotten works of the small community of Polish documentarians show that world cinema scholars can no longer limit their studies of the first few post-war decades in Eastern Europe's factual cinema to newsreels and the so-called 'Polish Black Series' from the 1950s.

Not only do the discussed films testify to an unprecedented early proliferation of authorial creativity among Polish documentary filmmakers, but they also form social and political chronicles of their time--a potentially valuable material for the history of everyday life under Communism. As micro-historical film records, they can complement the conventional macro-historical approaches.

This archive-based work aims at encouraging further research and promotion of archive documentaries. The only copies of some of the examined titles are available at the National Film Archive in Warsaw. Almost thirty years after the collapse of the Communist regime, it is the first time some of these films get a mention in the English language.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: 10.1080/01439685.2017.1414998
ISSN: 1465-3451
Subjects: Film & TV
Film & TV > Film > International Film
History > International
Depositing User: Anna Misiak
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2017 10:13
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2022 16:30
URI: https://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/2768


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