Minsk International Film Festival Listapad has been held since Belarus regained its independence in 1994. Thanks to its very rich and varied programme, the festival lets its attendees find true independent documentary and feature film gems in addition to more notable festival productions. This year’s edition took a different form.
Tomasz Wolski’s documentary received the Special Jury Award. Using archival materials, “An Ordinary Country” shows ordinary citizens of the People’s Republic of Poland under surveillance by the communist security services. They were everywhere while trying to remain invisible. They filmed from hiding in restaurants, streets, and shops. They filmed an illegal petrol bottling plant in one of the housing estates. Another time, they captured the failed launch of the ship “MIR” (“friendship” in Russian) or Fidel Castro playing basketball with a team from Krakow. They recorded two lovers in a hotel and an editorial meeting at the Polish TV, where journalists were discussing propaganda. Sometimes, the officers recorded interrogations that involved blackmailing the person in custody to force them to cooperate. On other occasions, they tried to get detailed information about their daily purchases, including types of meat and amounts of butter. They listened to a man’s phone conversation with a friend in Oslo, with whom he ordered a haemorrhoids ointment that wasn’t available in Poland. They filmed riots with people throwing trash cans at them. They also recorded their own dramatic conversations during the siege of a police station, which the strikers set on fire. The trapped officers begged for help that could not come.
More information about the festival is available on its official website.