Shrewdly mixing found footage, historical record and dramatized re-creation, “One Day in People’s Poland” is an intriguing curio best suited for fest, non-theatrical and not-for-profit venues. Helmer Maciej J. Drygas’ emblematic overview of a day in the life of Polish citizenry during the Cold War era also could serve as an invaluable teaching tool in courses focused on the history of former Eastern Bloc countries.
Drawing on relentlessly drab B&W footage from government and media archives, Drygas and editor Katarzyna Maciejko-Kowalczyk cleverly shape the material to represent an average day — specifically, Sept. 27, 1962 — in Poland under Communist rule. The footage serves to illustrate — often with uncanny aptness — a variety of narratives drawn from letters, radio scripts, news reports and police surveillance. (Off-screen readers are mostly non-pros.) Pic occasionally turns darkly humorous as bland street scenes are underscored by sternly meticulous secret police reports on activities of suspected subversives. (The subversives, it should be noted, never do anything more incriminating than go to the corner grocery for salt.) Overall, however, “One Day in People’s Poland” is serious and sobering in its ingenious rendering of a repressed and paranoid society.