Dear JFI Friends and Family,
No country has been more synonymous with the eradication of Jewish life during World War II than Poland. With antisemitism on the rise following the emergence of far-right leadership here and abroad, it’s perhaps with little surprise that even in 2018, Poland had proposed a controversial Holocaust bill that threatened prison sentences to anyone who publicly ascribed blame to the Polish state for crimes committed by Nazi Germany. Though the law would be overturned months later, the sentiments behind the claim still linger throughout modern Poland. In this edition of Cinegogue Sessions, we take you along a journey through Poland’s past and present as we witness a time when Jewish life and culture flourished, when it perished, and when it was resurrected.
Until next time.
Jay Rosenblatt, Program Director
Joshua Moore, Programmer
Margherita Ghetti, Next Wave Programmer
WHO WILL WRITE OUR HISTORY (SFJFF 38)
In November 1940, days after the Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a secret band of journalists, scholars, and community leaders decided to fight back. Led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum (voiced by Adrian Brody) and known by the code name Oyneg Shabes (joy of sabbath), this clandestine group vowed to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda not with guns or fists but with the ultimate weapon: the truth. The members of Oyneg Shabes risked their lives, some even choosing to stay in the ghetto despite offers to leave. They were motivated by their answer to one question: “Will the Germans write our history, or will we?” In Who Will Write Our History director Roberta Grossman (Seeing Allred, WinterFest 2018; Above and Beyond, SFJFF 2014; Hava Nagila (The Movie), SFJFF 2012) deftly uses a combination of archival footage, photographs and masterful reenactments, to reveal to the world the vision, ingenuity and courage of these women and men.
RAISE THE ROOF SFJFF 35
Rivaling the greatest wooden architecture in history, the synagogues of 18th-century Poland inspired artists Rick and Laura Brown to embark on a 10-year pursuit — to reconstruct the elaborate roof and painted ceiling of the Gwoździec synagogue. Raise the Roof (SFJFF 2015) chronicles the collective undertaking of over 300 students and professionals from 16 countries, as the Browns grapple not just with the echoes of World War II when these buildings were destroyed by the Nazis, but also with warped timbers, tricky paints, and period hand tools. By the end of the project, the team has done more than reconstruct a lost synagogue: they have recovered a lost world.
THE PENCIL (SFJFF 32)
Set in a pre-1939 courtyard when Jews and Poles lived next to each other, the short film The Pencil (SFJFF 2012) finds a Jewish boy sharing fleeting glances with a Gentile girl while he’s supposed to be studying.