History of Polish documentary 1896-2016 is a collection of lectures by renowned experts, richly illustrated with film examples and curiosities, which presents the history of Polish non-fictional film in a cross-sectional way. The twelve-episode series is based on two volumes of Professor Małgorzata Hendrykowska’s book The History of Polish Documentary Film. The lectures produced as part of the Polish Film Academy project are presented in an accessible language, but at the same time they are not devoid of a deeper reflection on film studies, which is why they are addressed both to laypeople and experts in the subject. Subsequent meetings are led by: Prof. Małgorzata Hendrykowska, Prof. Marek Hendrykowski, Prof. Mikołaj Jazon, Prof. Wojciech Otto, Prof. Jadwiga Hučková, Prof. Mirosław Przylipiak and Prof. Katarzyna Mąka-Malatyńska.
Chapter 1: The Great War photographed and filmed (1896-1918)
Prof. Małgorzata Hendrykowska, author of the book “History of Polish Documentary Film”, talks about the cinematography and its possibilities, as well as about the very beginnings of Polish documentaries.
Out of about 400 documentary films made before the war in Poland, only a few have survived. However, cinema and its new possibilities was a widely discussed topic at the beginning of the century; we know what hopes were associated with it, among others, by Bolesław Prus and Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński. Prof. Małgorzata Hendrykowska talks about the works of that period, taking into account the censorship context of the era of the partitions and the need to shape national identity. This was the period when the first Polish film chronicles were created, famous court trials were recorded, and ethically controversial funerals of important personalities, such as Stanisław Wyspiański and Józef Piłsudski, were recorded.
Chapter 2: From the euphoria of independence to the symptoms of the crisis (1919-1929)
Prof. Małgorzata Hendrykowska draws a portrait of Polish documentaries of the 1920s, for which the cinema competition was attractive American feature films, like Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton.
Chapter 3: From the sound breakthrough to genre exploration (1930-1939)
The famous START film association and the most important trends in the Polish documentary of the 1930s is told by a film expert, Prof. Małgorzata Hendrykowska.
Chapter 4: Film documentary in the years of war and occupation (1939-1944)
Lecture on, among others, wartime September cinematography from Warsaw, Warsaw Uprising in a documentary and film cinematography by Julian Bryan.
Chapter 5: Post-war documentaries (1945-1955)
Prof. Marek Henrykowski on post-war reconstruction, socialist realism and the thaw of the 1950s in Polish documentalism.
Chapter 6: Time of transformations (1956-1960)
Prof. Mikołaj Jazdon talks about the creators and methods of the so-called “black documentary series”, which became a showcase of Polish cinematography abroad.
Chapter 7: Observations of life and peregrinations of history (1960-1969)
Prof. Wojciech Otto talks about various creators of Polish documentaries in the 1960s.
Chapter 8: Nothing about us without us (1970-1979)
The story of documentarians of the 1970s, such as Krzysztof Kieślowski, Irena Kamieńska, Marek Piwowski and Bohdan Dziworski is presented by Prof. Mikołaj Jazdon.
Chapter 9: Stories of an Eyewitness. Cinema between the Springs of Solidarity (1980-1989)
Prof. Jadwiga Hučková talks about the exceptionally politicised decade of the 1980s in Polish documentaries.
Chapter 10: 1990-1999
Prof. Mirosław Przylipiak draws a portrait of Polish documentary cinema of the 1990s. Based on the example of six most representative films.
Chapter 11: Polish documentary films after 2000
Katarzyna Mąka-Malatyńska talks about the very diverse Polish documentaries after the digital revolution and the influence of new technologies on their shape.
Chapter 12: Polska Kronika Filmowa (1944–1994)
Prof. Marek Hendrykowski presents the history of the Polish Film Chronicle, which is currently an invaluable historical source.