IDFA Review: 1970

The Cold War threw up many challenges but one of the strangest, in hindsight, was the lack of information about the daily lives of people living behind the Iron Curtain. While we got inundated with propaganda, there was very little fact. Indeed, even now, our knowledge about this period largely comes courtesy of film and television. In many ways, it’s impossible to fully comprehend what life was like under an authoritarian government unless you’ve experienced it.   

1970, Poland. Widespread shortages, which trigger rapidly increasing food prices, hit the shops. While low wages and poor working conditions are prevalent. Shipyard workers of Gdansk have had enough and go on strike. The authorities initially respond with propaganda but soon resort to military action. Using archive recording of telephone conversations between senior Communist leaders, 1970 pieces together the increasingly desperate response to the crisis.

1970 is a fascinating piece of documentary filmmaking. It’s a bold choice to focus on the authoritarian leadership as opposed to the workers, but it bears fruit for director Tomasz Wolski. Using stop-motion animation to represent the committee members along with archive footage of the protests, 1970 is a fascinating portrait of the decision-making process of Communist authorities and industrial relations in the Eastern Bloc.

1970 screens at International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam.

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