Irish film director Graham Jones (The Randomers) explores childhood innocence and cultural upbringing in his latest feature The History Student.
A blend of documentary and drama, The History Student follows Jones’s young son Aidan (known in the film as Filomonek) who is visiting his grandfather’s forest hut in rural Poland. Forced to speak only Polish whilst there, The History Student explores what it’s like for children like Aidan to grow up in a mixed-culture family and beautifully captures childhood innocence and imagination.
The History Student is a slow-paced film in which nothing much happens. Instead we are invited to sit back and enjoy a slow, meandering and beautifully shot piece of art about a little boy’s innocent fascination with the world around him. There is something to relate to for everyone, whether it’s the boy’s cultural conundrum or simply his innocent and imaginative fascination with nature and all its mysteries. There is a very real feel to the film, perhaps because Jones has chosen an observational style, or perhaps because his subject is a real child and not an actor playing a part, that makes it a real joy to watch. It doesn’t need a script full of exciting ups and downs or an action packed storyline, it’s entertainment at its simplest and most effective.
About his decision to make the film Jones says “Aidan hadn’t seen his hermetic grandfather in Poland for many years, so we traipsed out to his forest hut in Włocławek over the summer. I thought it would be really nice to document the experience on camera, for when my son is older. Within days I found myself making a film not only about his childhood, but also sort of about my own and actually one that others might relate to as well! It became more of a drama than pure documentary. I’m not sure how impressed Aidan was, to be honest, because he doesn’t have much interest in acting and had to be paid in Lego – but I think he makes a nice protagonist for other Irish/Polish children who are growing up on this island.”
The History Student is beautifully shot with real care and attention that has clearly gone in to its production. It’s a lovely expression of childhood that we can really experience through the child’s eyes; enough to take anyone back to their early days of innocence and fascination. More than just a home-movie, The History Student is a lovingly crafted, entertaining watch with real meaning and questions behind it about cultural upbringing and how understanding where you come from is crucial in a child’s development. Studies suggest that the Polish community comprised 2.7% of the population in the Republic of Ireland in 2011; a figure that is likely to have grown since and Graham Jones’s youngest son, and star of The History Student, Aidan, is half-Polish-half-Irish himself.
The film is available to watch entirely for free on Youtube, and is well worth checking out.