Paper Heads presents a specific and non-traditional view of Slovak society in the second half of the 20th century. A multi- dimensional image of the relation between the citizen and the state power was made in the form of an impressive combination of archived materials, authentic testimonies of witnesses, and a stylised happening level. It is exceptional and attractive for its poetics and breadth of scope, its style of depicting historical and current reality, and the extent and meticulousness of its making. It expresses the destiny of society and that of the individual via the basic and universal questions of human existence. The irony underlying the author’s view alternates with his sympathetic approach to the suffering of the people, to their hopes and doubts under altered societal conditions. This is an exceptional work within Slovak cinema, and it is actually the first time a Slovak film formed part of a European co-production collaboration supported by the Eurimages Fund.
According to Dušan Hanák, there are three overlapping levels in the film. The first one is the carnival motifs of paper heads from the May Day celebrations. The second comprises archived news shots of the watershed moments and events as well as the propaganda films of the Ministry of the Interior from 1945 to 1989 that had never previously been screened. And the testimonies and confrontations of witnesses, which Hanák denotes as “return to reality”, constitute the third level.
The film had its international première in 1996 at the Nyon International Documentary Film Festival. It won significant awards at film festivals in Karlovy Vary, San Francisco, Yamagata, Japan; its director, Dušan Hanák, won the Kristián and Igric Awards and the Tatrabanka Foundation Award for Art. The film ranked second in the category of Best Slovak Documentary in the poll of Slovak film journalists and critics Anketa 2000.
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