Film Archive of the Video Studio Gdansk
The beginnings of the Video Studio Gdansk are connected to the I National Congress of “Solidarity”, organised in Gdansk in 1981. At first, the independent “Solidarity” filmmakers documented the union’s most important events, however soon the first documentaries were produced. Video Studio Gdansk has been operating for almost 40 years, and its archive today consists of several thousands of video materials. It mostly comprises own videos, created by the Studio: raw footages (of the most important oppositional events, like strikes, clashes, protests), documentaries, reportages, few feature films, and numerous recordings of television theatre, public debates, cultural events, etc.
Gdańsk Grodzka 20, Poland 80-841
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Name of collection
- Film Archive of the Video Studio Gdansk
Provenance and cultural activities
Archive of the Video Studio Gdansk (VSG) has been developed as a result of an activity of this independent film studio. To manage a huge number of historical and presently created video recordings, in 2004 the institution founded the Film Archive Foundation [Fundacja Archiwum Filmowe].
The beginnings of the Video Studio Gdansk are connected to the I National Congress of “Solidarity”, organised in Gdansk in 1981. After the success of “Solidarity” in 1980, Marian Terlecki, a young journalist, along with a group of other oppositional activists, saw a need to document important changes happening in the country. Very quickly it was realised that gathering necessary equipment is an impossible task. Help came from abroad, when the International Trade Union Confederation from Brussels donated to the newly established “Solidarity”, for its first congress, a video camera SONY U-matic HB, montage set and a hundred of cassettes. Thanks to the donation, the “Solidarity” News Agency [Biuro Informacyjno-Prasowe Solidarność] was extended with a Television Agency of “Solidarity” – which was a basis for the later film activity of Video Studio, operating under this name since 1983.
At first independent “Solidarity” filmmakers documented the union’s most important events: public appearances of its leaders and meetings of its authorities. However, soon the first documentaries were produced (the first was “Candidate” [“Kandydat”] by Marian Terlecki about Lech Walesa’s appointment as a leader). Since 1983 film makers operated within the structures of the Catholic Church (the Pallottines) which gave them relative freedom. However, all the activities were stopped when in 1985 Terlecki got arrested for 16 months for not returning the video equipment belonging to banned “Solidarity” (precious camera was confiscated by the militia). In 1987, again with strong institutional support of the Church, the film makers resumed their actions (under the name Działu Dokumentacji i Pomocy Duszpasterskich "Video"). Besides Terlecki, the group included Ryszard Grabowski and Marek Łochwicki. Among numerous cooperators were Bogdan Borusewicz, Andrzej Drzycimski, Maciej Grzywaczewski, Artur Matys, Ewa Oleczek, Jarek Rybicki, Sławomir Rybicki, Jacek Taylor, Marek Tokarczyk, Wiesław Walendziak, Krzysztof Wyszkowski, Andrzej Zarębski, Waldemar Banasik, Andrzej Goliszewski, Alicja Hołdun, Hanna Karkowska, Marek Łochwicki, Wojciech Nowicki, Waldemar Płocharski, Włodzimierz Resiak, Jerzy Rozmus and Katarzyna Wojciechowska, and some foreign Polish emigre film circles (Video-Kontakt and Modus Video from Paris). They recorder numerous illegal meetings, events organised by the democratic movement and even managed to produce several documentary films. One of the most important activity of the group was disseminating VHS cassettes, with both own recordings and copies of foreign films. Since those cassettes were very popular, they were also the group’s most important source of income – stable enough to support its broad activities.
In 1989 Video Studio Gdansk has already had wide experience in filmmaking and has gathered a substantial collection of video materials (films, reportages, video magazines). Even though the transformation enabled the organisation to operate legally, its creators decided not to turn it into a commercial business, but to function as a foundation and act for common good. In the early 1990s, as the first independent production house with a big experience, Video Studio Gdansk started to cooperate with the newly-reformed Polish public television. They produced television theatres, television films, documentaries, etc.
Therefore, under different names and organisational structures, independent filmmakers from Gdansk have been continuously operating since 1981 - first as an underground organisation, supported by the “Solidarity” and Catholic Church, and after the transformation – as a production house. The profile of their activity has changed over the years, however in their documentaries they often come back to the topics of dissent attitude, oppositional activity and historical events. Video Studio Gdansk still operates as a foundation.
In 2004, to manage a vast and still-growing archive of video documentation, the Film Archive Foundation was founded. Its goal is to gain funds for archival works: digitization, cataloguing and describing the materials. Its resources are gained through grants. Despite limited funds, the small team of 5 people managed to already digitize over 2500 VHS cassettes.
For several years the Video Studio Gdansk has been experiencing problems with storage capacity. Some help was offered by the European Solidarity Centre (ECS), a partner institution of VSG. Since 2017 the materials are being transferred to the ECS’s spacious new building, offering better digitization and dissemination possibilities, as well as raising availability of using the footages in education and historical research.
Description of content
The archive consists of several thousands of video materials. Mainly, it comprises own videos, created by Video Studio Gdansk since 1981: raw footages (of the most important oppositional events, like strikes, clashes, protests), documentaries, reportages, few feature films, and numerous recordings of television theatre, public debates, cultural events, etc. There are i.e. materials connected to “Solidarity” movement and cultural opposition (like the Eighth Day Theatre). As a film production house functioning for almost 40 years, Video Studio Gdansk managed to gather some precious and rare historical videos. During realization of every documentary or reportage, filmmakers were left with a large number of materials not used in the final version and thus, the archive has been constantly growing. Moreover, the group has always been conscious of a historical value of certain materials (such as interviews with deceased activists) and put much effort in preserving them, which was not easy under socialism.
Apart from the materials created by Video Studio Gdansk, its archive holds a large number of recordings left by the “Solidarity” News Agency [Biuro Informacyjno-Prasowe Solidarność] from its activity in the 1980s. In the archive there are also some footages acquired from other institutions for realization of films.
There are also some voice recordings, donated to the archive by former activists (like Bogdan Borusewicz).
- equipment (typewriters, duplicating devices, audio-video equipments, etc.): 1000-
- film: 1000-
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Tołłoczko-Suchańska, Barbara
Cały ten czas. 25 lat Video Studio Gdańsk, Pacana, Joanna; Łochwicki, Marek; Płocharski, Waldemar (ed.), Video Studio Gdańsk (Fundacja Filmów i Programów Katolickich), Gdansk 2006.
Borzych, Jacek, interview by Tołłoczko-Suchańska, Barbara, July 20, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection