The 21st edition of the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival opened on Monday with a sold-out Polish premiere of Golda at Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The film, directed by Guy Nattiv, focuses on how prime minister Golda Meir, played by Helen Mirren, functioned during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The award-winning production features Rami Heuberger as Moshe Dayan and Liev Schreiber as Henry Kissinger.
The festival opened shortly after Hamas invaded Israel in a brutal attack on Saturday, October 7. The Polish capital, like other cities, saw protests of solidarity with the Jewish State, as well as demonstrations calling to protect civilian lives in Gaza.
The films are shown at Polin Museum, Kino Muranow, KinoGram, and JCC Warsaw – all built after the war on the ruins of the former Jewish Ghetto created by the Nazis in occupied Poland, during the Holocaust.
The Holocaust, and how to remember it, are at the focus of the 2023 film Delegation. This Israeli-German-Polish co-production depicts a group of Israeli high school kids who are traveling to Poland to deepen their knowledge of the genocide carried out by Nazi Germany on Polish soil against the Jewish people. The film will be released for commercial screenings in December this year.
The post-war fates of Polish Jews are explored in the film March 68. Directed by Krzysztof Lang, the movie depicts how the rulers of Communist Poland orchestrated a wave of state-sponsored antisemitism in 1968 which led to Jewish citizens of Poland losing their jobs and being forced out of the country.
Actress Vanessa Aleksander plays the role of a young Jewish woman who confronts her oppressors. “How can anyone say I am not Polish?” She asks them, “Who knows what is in my heart?”
A different exploration of Jewish destiny in light of the Holocaust is offered by Tal Kantor in her award-winning short animation film Letter to a Pig, now making its Polish premiere.
THE FILM depicts a meeting between a young high school girl and a Holocaust survivor with an unusual story. The survivor, played by late Habima actor Alex Peleg, was able to hide from the Nazis in a pigsty. A pig stepped in to hide him from those who hunted him – and saved his life.
The unique qualities of human memory, the ways in which it can be subjective and fickle, are deftly explored in this film thanks to a special technique Kantor created. By fusing two different cinematic languages, shooting live actors and animation, the finished result contains both artistic and realistic aspects.
“Animation, as a medium, offers us an allegorical distance from reality,” Kantor told The Jerusalem Post, “this creates a visual metaphor which allows the viewer to cast their own personal and cultural associations on the screen.”
Based on the real testimony of a Holocaust survivor the director heard in high school and was never able to forget, the work on the film took Kantor to a Freedom Farm, where she learned to appreciate the intelligence and emotional wisdom of pigs.
“It is very moving that this film is shown in places like Poland,” Kantor added, “which is a part of my personal family history. The film deals with how past and present are fused together, so it is a special thing that it is shown where my grandparents were from.”
Delegation will be screened at Polin Museum on Sunday, October 29, at 7 p.m. After the screenings members of the audience will be invited to discuss the work with the director. wjff.pl/en/