Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
Peasants '81 is a sequel to Workers '80 shown at the Gdansk Film Festival in 1981 and 1980, respectively. As its title suggests, this second documentary focuses on the "Rural Solidarity" peasant union headed by Jan Kulaj and follows its first stirrings of activism from a strike of farmers in a small village in southeastern Poland, to their appeal for a legalized union in a Warsaw court, through their meetings and police surveillance (of even the film crew), to a May, 1981 agreement signed between the peasant union and the government. Along the way to the final agreement, the documentary records the grievances of the peasants (such as illegal villas set up behind guarded fences and posted as "military compounds," arrests of strikers, corrupt officials, and a long list of abuses). Between January 2nd and the signing of the agreement in May, negotiations were carried out at meetings that included Lech Walesa, Jan Kulaj, a government labor official, a deputy agricultural minister, and other local politicians.