By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
The Holocaust and World War II had a massively tragic impact on the Jewish people in Europe. For the Jewish people in German-occupied Poland, especially in the city of Lodz, their lives were totally uprooted, as they were moved into camps, forced into slave labor, or were executed. Some people managed to survive, and with them, they will forever have a mix of joyful and horrific memories, but nevertheless a rich history in their lives. Filmmaker Slawomir Grünberg has made an amazing, powerful, and poignant documentary about a trio of people with personal and familial ties to the city of Lodz. The film not only captures their pilgrimage to their roots in Lodz, but also reveals their family’s histories and how they survived to make this journey possible.
The first story involves an old painting which remained in an apartment home throughout the tragedy and turbulence of the period. One time Lodz resident Lika Elbaum fondly recalls how the painting was a regular fixture in her life when her family moved into that apartment and how she and her family would have to leave their home and the painting behind when they were forced to move in 1968. Despite the horrific history of the area and the impact it would have on the apartment’s tenants, that painting endured as a symbol of beauty and peace. The film follows Elbaum’s more recent visit to Lodz, her fateful reunion with the painting, and the history of the art piece and the very poor tenement apartment which housed people greatly affected by World War II and the holocaust.
In addition to Elbaum, the documentary also reveals the stories of American Paul Celler and artist Roni Ben-Ari whose families were impacted by the holocaust and the tyranny of the German Nazis controlling the town. Celler and Ben-Ari visit the various places where their parents lived and worked. As they recall the stories shared to them by their parents, they get to see with their own eyes the various locales mentioned in those stories and share the turmoil their families experienced during the Holocaust.
This is an incredible documentary film that I highly recommend for everyone, particularly young people studying world history in school. This film offers some very personal perspectives on the Holocaust, the war and the aftermath on the people from a poor and humble Jewish community. Director Slawomir Grünberg and his crew do a remarkably fantastic job of telling these stories, using both traditional and less-traditional documentary techniques. The film offers some genuinely emotional insight into three families affected by the tragedy of the holocaust and how they managed to endure and survive for future generations.
This wonderful and beautiful film will be available for viewing in both virtual cinemas and some theaters starting March 12, 2021.