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Paper Heads

Papierové Hlavy

Director, Script: Dusan Hanák
Photography: Alojz Hanúksek
Editing: Patrik Pass, Alena Pätoprstá
Music: W. A. Mozart, G. Rossini, P. I Cajkovski, J. P. Fait
Sound: Igor Vrabec, Pavol-Ján Jasovsky
Producer: Marian Urban
Production Company, Source:
Alef Film & Media Group, Ltd.
Tekovská 7, 82109 Brastislava, SLOVAKIA
Phone: 421-7-539-1314 / Fax: 421-7-525-8510
SLOVAKIA / 1996 / Slovak, Czech / Color /
35mm / 96min

Dusan Han & aacute;k

Born in 1938. Worked as a coal miner before graduating from the Film and Television Faculty of the School of Performing Arts of Prague in 1965. Works as both director and scriptwriter of his films beginning with the 1964 short Six Questions for Jan Werich. In 1969 his first long film 322 won the Grand Prix at the Manheim International Film Festival. Despite the dynamism of both his shorts and longer films, upon completion almost all have been banned from being shown in the Czech Republic. I Love, You Love made in 1980 was screened for the first time at the 1989 Berlin International Film Festival and won the Silver Bear. At YIDFF '89 Pictures of the Old World (1972) was screened as a special invitation film. As a representative filmmaker of Slovakia after the fall of communist rule, Hanák now teaches and has become a mentor of the younger generation.


Paper Heads is a film about the history of Czechoslovakia from 1945 to 1989. Compiling a huge body of documentary footage together with the testimonies of present day survivors, it reveals to us fresh facts about the country's internal situation during that period. The director Dusan Hanák's approach is a sensitive one: drawing on the personal remembrances of the individuals who lived through the era's upheavals. These people, now already grown old, tell stories of that dark period in which they experienced imprisonment and were denied freedom of speech. Their lost time cannot be recovered, and for Hanák too it is the same. His film Pictures of the Old World, which was screened at Yamagata back in 1989 before the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc, captured old people's views on life and death with a unique sense of irony, but in retrospect, it now seems it was an indirect expression of the frank criticism of the system, as seen in Paper Heads, a documentary forced to be a masquerade. Thus, we glimpse a new side to Hanák the artist, and I find myself forced to reconsider my previous interpretations of Pictures of the Old World. In Paper Heads, a director who himself lived through the same trying time as the victims and witnesses inscribed in his film, shows us the deep wounds in his heart.
--Watabe Minoru

Director's Statement

This film is an emotional collage about violations of human rights and about the relation between the power of a totalitarian system and its citizens. After the Second World War, The Soviet empire was extended into the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It had promised "paradise on earth," but in practice it wiped out all elements of democracy, introduced a government of terror and destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

My film is not just a review of the past: it depicts the desire of people to live in a fairer world. In 1989 the communist regime collapsed, and many nations are now once more looking for a way to democracy. This is a painful process full of contradictions. In my opinion, we have not yet managed to come to terms with our past, even though many signs of this past are still present in our everyday lives.

At both the beginning and end of the film, we see Slovak citizens gathered at an event celebrating May Day 1990. They are laughing at people standing on a red platform wearing "paper heads." On another two levels, archives of propaganda are intercut with subjective testimonies of victims of the totalitarian system. In the end, we learn that the struggle for democracy is not yet won.


Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee