Rock music, fashion, sex, mountaineering or toy-making, were among the many ways of expressing individual freedom under an oppressive regime. A look at the undaunted spirit of a nation under communism, Guide to the Poles is a series of five documentaries shedding light on contemporary Poland.
Portraying unfaltering hope, belief in morality, and astounding creativity despite prevailing conditions of oppression and poverty, the five films are about fighting for freedom on every step of the way. Illustrating the role of rock and punk music in the fight against communism and bringing hope to the younger generations, Beats of Freedom is the first installment in the series. Directed by Leszek Gnoiński and Wojciech Słota, it shows the indomitable force of music.
Political Dress depicts home-made clothing as rebellion against the otherwise bland and uniform clothes available in stores. An obvious political manifestation, at the time punishable by law, this form of expression was bold and innovative. From the hard-headed Stalinist era, when colorful socks could get you reprimanded by the militia, through a fascination with Parisian fashion in the '60s, the flower children of the '70s up through the martial law period and the punk-rock '80s. Against the backdrop of this intrepid greyness of the socialist nation, a certain "underground" style flourished.
Despite lack of access to funding, proper equipment or even passports, a group of mountain climbers in Art of Freedom overcomes all obstacles and leaves their traces in the history of mountaineering as some of the best climbers in the world. Toys tells the history of a generations of children who develop an ability to create their own playthings from virtually nothing. Featuring a television host whose McGyveresque qualities help stimulate children's imaginations and overlook the empty toy store shelves. Toys is also a look at the circumstances which shaped the creativity of today's generation of Polish artists and designers.
The last film in the series Art of Disappearing is directed by Oscar-nominated director Bartek Konopka. The film takes the stiff political and religious structures and looks at how Poles found respite and pleasure in the more intimate spheres of life. Based on the famed anthropological text by Bronisław Malinowski, The Sexual Life of Savages, and the true story of a group of Haitians with Polish roots who come to the Polish capital, it shows Polish society through their eyes and suggests how a bit of Voodoo magic can help to topple a regime.
The films have been co-produced by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Paweł Potoroczyn, director of the Institute comments,
Some people have their stories, but some have become legends. These films are about these people. Rock is just as good a part of our culture as is music, poetry, film, and comic books. One cannot bring to light the phenomenon of Polish freedom without talking about the free culture, which was the most significant and popular part of it. Some people were involved in printing underground publications and dropping leaflets, others were busy playing their homemade guitars and constructing homemade amplifiers. And all these people made history.
Sources: Adam Mickiewicz Institute
Editor: Marta Jazowska