Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Details: 12 May, 9.30pm
In this devastating Polish docudrama, director Antoni Krauze chronicles the first worker’s protests in 1970 that would gradually build up over the years to the nation’s Solidarity movement.
Krauze follows a family, led by Bruno (Michl Kowalski), a devoted family man who is not interested in politics. His main concern is making a better life for his wife Stefa (Marta Honzatko) and their kids.
The film kicks off as the ruling party inflates the prices of food and milk. When the shipyard workers strike, the Communist government orders them back to work, and brings in militia to ensure that their commands are followed.
In the initial protests, several of the workers are killed. The protestors bear the dead towards the town square of Gdynia, which triggers an even more violent reaction from the ruling party.
The film is at its best when it captures the chaotic protests and crackdown. Interposed with the recreation of the events, filmed with a toned down colour palette, within the film are scratchy newsreel footage. It gives the film a vivid authenticity.
One sequence, involving the interrogation and beating of a teenage protestor, is particularly brutal, as the militia beat him up even though he is defenceless.
The scenes where the politburo debate on how to teach the protestors a lesson and get them back to work are also chilling, as the grey men in suits, seemingly oblivious or unconcerned to the carnage that their decisions create, take orders from Russia, refusing to bend to the worker’s demands.
Nonetheless, Kraze’s story involving Bruno’s family does get lost, particularly in the middle. When he tries to bring the story back to a more personal level, the film loses its impact.
The film deservedly won a FIPRESCI award at the Montreal World Film Festival last year.
At times, it reminds one of Paul Greengrass’ ‘Bloody Sunday’, which chronicled another civil rights uprising that ended in bloodshed. ‘Black Thursday’ is an excellent docudrama that is at its best when it gives a grand overview of the events.
The 22nd European Union Film Festival happens from 11 to 20 May at Golden Village VivoCity. Tickets available from 26 Apr 2012 at Golden Village box offices nationwide and on www.gv.com.sg.
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