In his new documentary, 1970, Tomasz Wolski uses stop-motion animation and archival footage to illuminate telephone conversations between top communist officials during a crucial historical event.
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Tomasz Wolski’s fascinating documentary 1970 is probably the most formally inventive film I saw at Visions du Réel, rightly taking home the prize for the International Feature Competition. When Wolski stumbled upon real-life recordings of telephone calls between Polish dignitaries discussing their strategy for dealing with the 1970 workers’ rebellions, Wolski knew he had to build a film around them.
To help us follow the conversations, he created puppets of each of the characters on the phone call, and used stop-motion animation to take us inside their homes and board rooms.
Working with a limited budget meant the puppets could only move so much, so Wolski moved the camera, as well as creating mood lighting and period-accurate settings, to make us feel like we’re really there with them. You forget you’re watching animation, and feel like you’re really watching these events unfold.
Wolski regularly cuts between the events discussed by the men on the phone and archival footage of the actual events with people on the streets. It creates a stark contrast between the moving masses outdoors in the light and the privileged, static few indoors in darkened rooms. The combination of the real documentary audio recordings and the archival footage remain a constant reminder that this really happened.
Though this important moment in Polish history may not be well known outside of the country, a worker’s rebellion crushed by insensitive leaders not on the ground is hardly an anomaly. The film often reminded me of Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, with its contrasts between the unfeeling few in power and the masses encountering injustice and state violence.
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