Here when We Need Them

Papierové hlavy (r. Dušan Hanák, 1995)/ Head Made of Paper (dir. Dušan Hanák, 1995)


  • What kind of message does the clip give about the past, focusing on its individual components — the commentary, the music, and the composition of the shots?
  • How are the policemen and the protestors depicted? Is this depiction objective?
  • What does the composition say about how 1989 is evaluated in the collective memory of post-socialist countries?


Paper Heads, a documentary by Slovak director Dušan Hanák, is a collage of historical footage and witness stories that are deliberately presented briefly, paradoxically, and for the greatest effect.

The clip combines footage of various demonstrations against the Communist regime in 1989, which documented the actions of police officers with the demonstrators. As if the actual scenes of violence were not enough, the filmmakers draw attention to the message with music or by using commentary from period propaganda films.

We do not present the scene from the documentary as an illustration of the situation in 1989, but as one of the ways in which the Velvet Revolution is represented in Czech memory, i.e. with an emphasis on repression. In the scene, the dividing lines are clearly visible between the protesters, who discuss their experiences, and the police officers, who are depicted en masse, characterised only by their use violence. The ironically used commentary from the propaganda film follows the tradition of jokes about the police and other powerful groups. During the socialist era, this was a way of covertly criticising the regime and venting about social tension.