The Children Accuse, dirs. Edward Skórzewski & Jerzy Hoffman, Poland 1956, 10 min.
Six early works by Jerzy Hoffman and Edward Skórzewski trace the birth of an unmistakably Polish style of documentary film-making.
As post-war Poland became a communist state that embraced the tenets of Stalinism, the socialist realist approach to the arts was keenly felt at the cinema. Naturally, this ideology was not for everyone. Documentarians Jerzy Hoffman and Edward Skórzewski may have trained in the USSR, but their legacy was a distinctly Polish school of film-making that broke the conventions of the hegemonic socialist realism.
Hoffman and Skórzewski made their debut film Are You Among Them? (1954) during the cultural ‘thaw’ that occurred after the death of Stalin, which allowed them to show a non-compliant member of society who did not follow communist ideals of positive behaviour. They further developed this vision in their two subsequent films: Look Out, Hooligans! (1955), which kickstarted the so-called ‘black series’ of Polish documentaries that confronted issues such as hooliganism and alcoholism, and The Children Accuse (1956). Set among ruined post-war cities and disappearing towns, these films often used staged scenes to force the viewer into a critical mindset, bringing forth a shockingly realistic image of Poland that cut through the propaganda machine.
Outside of the ‘black series’, Hoffman and Skórzewski also worked on stylised reportage films, showing holiday destinations (Sopot, 1957) and following small-town Polish Catholics (A Souvenir from Calvary, 1958; The Two Faces of God, 1960). The pair later went on to work on feature films, contributing still further to the rich fabric of Polish cinema.
Look Out, Hooligans!, Poland, 1955, 12 min.
On the streets of 1950s Warsaw, hooligans are having a pernicious effect on the influx of young people looking for work.
The Children Accuse, Poland, 1956, 10 min.
Born to alcoholic parents, a generation of children speak about their tragic, unchosen fate.
Are You Among Them?, Poland, 1954, 7 min.
An unruly ‘cherry taster’ litters the pavement with stones from the fruit, causing injuries to passers-by.
Sopot, Poland, 1957, 16 min.
Lively and humorous reportage from the Baltic coast holiday destination of Sopot.
A Souvenir from Calvary, Poland, 1958, 14 min.
Each year, the small town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska holds one of Poland’s most prominent ‘mystery of the Passion’ plays, depicting the trial, suffering and death of Jesus Christ.
The Two Faces of God, Poland, 1960, 16 min.
A glimpse into the practices of a small Christian denomination that mixes original Christianity, utopian communism and pacifism.