The Shmooze

Astonished by Polish 'Aftermath'

By Masha Leon

  • Print
  • Share Share

“Aftermath, “ the Polish film by director Wladyslaw Pasikowski, offers that rare phenomenon where fiction is more unsettling than reality, with a macabre Zombie-genre film finale that left me sobbing.

The setting is a post–World War II Polish village where the locals ostracize their own — two brothers — Josek (Maciej Stuhr) who inexplicably “plants” Jewish tombstones — which had been used as road covers — in a wheat field, and his brother Franek (Ireneusz Czop) who returns after years in Chicago. Why the antagonism toward the brothers?

Cinematographer Pawel Edelman so accurately captures the Polish countryside that I could smell the earthy wheat fields near the village. So like those surrounding the shtetl where my family members and their neighbors lie buried.

Karen Leon
Katka Reszke and Slawomir Grunberg

Following the film’s October 15 preview at Manhattan’s JCC — attended by the film’s producer Dariusz Jablonski, moderator Columbia University film scholar Annette Insdorf later told me how impressed she was with the sold out “well-informed audience. It was,” she said “what I would call the ‘creme de la crème’ of the ‘Polska intelligentsia’ which included Polish Cultural Attache Jerzy Onuch and Polish Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka.

Insdorf called on Mordechai Paltiel, who, she explained “is noted for his pioneering work with Yad Vashem in acknowledging Righteous Gentiles… He picked up on something I had said, namely that my own father survived the Holocaust because he and his brothers were hidden by Polish peasants in the woods.” Insdorf added, “”Aftermath” includes no Righteous Gentiles, no character representing the smaller number of Poles who risked their lives to save Jewish neighbors.”

I caught up with Slawomir Grunberg who was a participant at the JCC event and will be a panel member following the November 11 screening of “Aftermath” at the Jewish Film Festival in Philadelphia. In 2005 he made the documentary film, “The Legacy of Jedwabne” [a town where Jews were massacred in 1941] which he said “dealt with righteous Gentiles — Poles who saved several Jews in Jedwabne but also dealt with the fear of openly acknowledging this fact by those righteous Gentiles in Poland today.”

Also at the JCC screening, Katka Reszke, author of “Return of the Jew” which explores the identity narratives of post-Holocaust third generation Jews of Poland who told me: “’Aftermath’s’ power lies precisely in the fact that it is a work of fiction [reaching] a more diverse audience and offers an uncompromising rhetoric… needed in Poland in its struggle to come to terms [with] the darkest chapter of Polish-Jewish relations. It does not try to reconcile. It does not heal wounds. It is merciless.”

“Aftermath” touched such a nerve that it was banned from some local cinemas and its leading actor received death threats. It is the winner of the Yad Vashem Chairman’s Award at the 2013 Jerusalem Film Festival and the 2012 Critics Prize at Poland’s most important Gydnia Film Festival.

According to “Aftermath” producer Dariusz Jablonski: “More people in Poland preferred watching “Aftermath” at home on DVD.”

It opens November 1 at the Lincoln Plaza. See it with someone.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.