A Sense of History By Christophe Chauville
The 46th Cracow film festival’s international competition has been characterised by the high quality of its documentaries, in contrast to the relative weakness of the fictions. Among those documentaries, two of them, awarded by the international jury, have in common the use of archive materials. Blokada (Blockade), by the Russian young director Sergei Loznica (Grand Prix winner of the festival), is built on a very strong and original concept. The whole film is made with World War II footage shot in Leningrad , sometimes by famous Russian directors, during the blockade of the city by the German armies. Loznica has edited those excerpts in order to feature the every day life of inhabitants and soldiers, adding no comment or music, only sounds: a troop’s walk on the snow, a bomb exploding, the silence after the battle, a thrill spreading in the crowd, etc. This experimental project impresses much by its simplicity and gives a strange feeling: this event that everyone believes they know perfectly could have occurred in another country and time and reminds us of recent armed conflicts. Indeed, the strength of a sequence with dead bodies lying in the streets during the cold winter of the blockade doesn’t need a single word or any music to support it.
Another original choice was given by Polish director Maciej J. Drygas in One Day in the People’s Republic of Poland (Jeden dzien w PRL), which won the Silver Dragon for best documentary film. The editing of archive materials shows a day like any other in Poland during the communist period, on September 27 th 1962. A commentary inspired by police reports, letters from the army and newspapers articles or radio comments, creates a terrible – and quite funny – vision of totalitarianism during the Cold War. Everyone was a potential suspect and… perhaps a censor! Those historic subjects were chosen by directors that, of course, didn’t experience them, but their cinematographic styles propose a new vision which is not necessarily politically committed but gives the audiences something to think about. Those artists are coming from the East of Europe, where documentaries take a more important place in short films productions than in Occidental Europe. It could also reveal a capacity of facing its own historical past.