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FAR FROM POLAND (director: Jill Godmilow; cinematographer: Jacek Laskins; music: Michael Sahl; cast: Mark Magill (Himself), Ruth Maleczech (Anna Walentynowicz), William Raymond (K-62); Runtime:106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jill Godmilow/Susan Delson/Mark Magill/Andrzej Tymowski; Facets; 1984)
“Dry but informative political documentary about Poland’s Solidarity movement in the early 1980s.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Dry but informative political documentary about Poland’s Solidarity movement in the early 1980s. This one proves to be a chore to watch, as I had difficulty trying to keep alert during this boring one-note type of college lecture that tries to overwhelm the viewer with its sense of humanity and to show that it has the answers for how the world is to overcome its fear of the unknown and take the road to salvation.

Leftist documentarian Jill Godmilow (“Waiting for the Moon”/”Antonia: Portrait of a Woman”/”What’s Underground About Marshmallows”) directs this ground breaking project that features performed re-enactments of those interviewed about their role in the 1980 strike in the Gdansk shipyards that led to the Polish Solidarity movement uniting the workers and changing the way the Communist country was run.

There’s nothing new here about the Solidarity movement but Godmilow has a gimmicky way of filming the documentary after she returns to NYC from Poland, where she was visiting during the beginning of the strike only to return home to raise money to make a film. She’s then denied five visas by the consulate for herself and film crew to return. The frustrated Godmilow hunkers down in NYC and begins with a staged and strained conversation with her filmmaker boyfriend Mark Magill on how to get around not making the film in Poland, as he mocks her liberal agenda. The filmmaker then has an actress, Ruth Maleczech, play the crane operator Anna Walentynowicz whose firing sparked the shipyard strike, as she’s interviewed in an empty meeting hall. Other re-enactments include a Polish miner interviewed by a NY Times reporter, an imaginary conversation with Fidel Castro, William Raymond injecting some needed comedy in his performance as a paranoid government censor known only as K-62, and a fictional reading of letters to his daughter from General Jaruzelski–he’s the authority figure who imposed martial law in 1981 and soon after the strike was placed under house arrest. Also interjected into the film are inferior footage (Godmilow says this herself) sent to New York by the Solidarity Film Agency before the Polish Government imposed martial law.

It’s more of a curio than a must see political film, seemingly an open apology for not being in Poland to film history taking place on the Solidarity movement. It further explores the limitations of the documentary form, if one can’t be first-hand at the scene.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”