The Adam Mickiewicz Institute’s Guide to The Poles series consists of five documentaries which bring foreign viewers closer to the reality of the Polish People's Republic. The films reveal the Poles’ ingenious inventiveness in times of poverty and oppression, despite the empty shop shelves and lack of freedom of speech.
Toys, directed by Andrzej Wolski, is a documentary about children's favourite toys in the times of real socialism. Polish toys were quite different from those available in the West – they were simplified and made of worse quality materials. Once in a while, one might receive a toy as a gift from a family living in the West or buy cheap imitations of western toys produced by Polish craftsmen. Most frequently, however, children played with toys made with their own hands. A comb and a couple of coins, an elasticated waistband, bottle caps and a carpet-hanger were crucial elements of children's social lives.
"Toys" from Culture.pl on Vimeo.
Wolski’s film tells viewers how the kids of the communist era would make use of sticks and stones to learn independent thinking. Andrzej Dudziński (creator of the famous 70s and 80s illustrations of the super-bird Dudi), Tomasz Jastrun, Dorota Masłowska, Wojciech Pszoniak, Lech Wałęsa and Henryk Wujec share their childhood memories in Toys.
There was a lot of fear, - says Tomasz Jastrun of the years spent right after the war. - However, nobody worried about kids spending most of the day outside, with all the rubble around, without fences and guardians. (...) We would basically play outside, out in the yard.
The film contains archival materials from the Documentary and Feature Film Production Company, Filmoteka Narodowa, Kronika Film Studio, and TVP depicting children playing in the post-war rubble, social realist toys which the members of the Polish United Workers’ Party would give to young people and GDR-made technological marvels which hypnotized not only the young.
Toys: Dorota Masłowska from Culture.pl on Vimeo.
The lack of real toys in People’s Poland triggered a trend for DIY. Adam Słodowy’s successful Do It Yourself was the most famous show on Polish television at the time. Each of the weekly episodes showed how to make toys and simple electronics from scratch – with use of a piece of sheet metal, wire or bottle caps. Dubbed the Polish McGyver, Adam Słodowy published several DIY guides which were translated and published worldwide. He is also the author of cartoons promoting DIY ethics.
The France-based director of the documentary, Andrzej Wolski, has produced nearly 40 films, mainly biographical and historical, for French television, as well as for the BBC, TVP and many other TV broadcasting stations over a period of 30 years. Wolski co-authored the screenplay for Agnieszka Holland’s Europa Europa, which was nominated for Oscars in 1991. His most significant works are: Culture Monthly (1985) about the Literary Institute in Maisons-Laffitte; Czapski (1985) – a film portrait of Józef Czapski; Emissaires (1987) in which three wartime couriers, Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, Jerzy Lerski and Jan Karski, reveal some facts about their war-era London missions; Moi Gombrowicz (1989), a series of interviews with the author about contemporary tendencies in art as well as about his phobias and provocations and last but not least Jan Lebenstein – the Diary of a Loner (2000).
Toys: Lech Wałęsa from Culture.pl on Vimeo.
Toys Poland 2011; directed and written by Andrzej Wolski; cinematography Andrzej Adamczak, Kacper Lisowski, Wojciech Staroń; sound: Marcin Lenarczyk; editor: Piotr Waldemar Zajączkowski.
Cast: Dorothée Charles, Matali Crasset, Andrzej Dudziński, Agnieszka Jacobson-Cielecka, Tomasz Jastrun, Janusz Kaniewski, Jan Lityński, Dorota Masłowska, Wojciech Pszoniak, Tomek Rygalik, Lech Wałęsa, Henryk Wujec.
Producer: Paweł Potoroczyn, Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw. Premiered on 13 December 2011.
Monika Rencławowicz 23/05/2012; translated by Kasia Dolato