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Critics Get Behind Controversial Polish Drama ‘Aftermath’ (TRAILER)

Critics Get Behind Controversial Polish Drama 'Aftermath' (TRAILER)

A critical groundswell is afoot for the controversial Polish drama “Aftermath,” which hit theaters in New York November 1, and comes to LA this weekend. Never heard of it? Here’s what you need to know:

The film centers on two brothers, Jozek (Maciej
Stuhr) and Franek (Ireneusz Czop) who discover a secret and are forced to
revise their perception of their father, their entire family, their neighbors,
and the history of their nation. Franek,
the older brother, returns home to Poland after many years living in Chicago
and discovers that his younger brother is being mysteriously threatened and
shunned by local townspeople. What follows is a gothic tale of intrigue as the
brothers are drawn into investigating the village’s dark secrets.

Upon its release in Poland, “Aftermath” received intense criticism from Polish nationals, who accused the
film of being “anti-Polish propaganda” and a gross manipulation of
historical truth. It has so incensed the Polish right wing that it has been
banned from some local cinemas, while its leading actor, Maciej Stuhr, has
received death threats. It is written and directed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski, and won the Yad Vashem Award at the 2013 Jerusalem Film
Festival, as well as the Critics’ Prize at the 2012 Gdynia Film Festival, Poland’s major fest.

J. Hoberman for the New York Times:

Released in Poland in 2012, “Aftermath,” opening in the
United States on Nov. 1, has reignited the controversy that surrounded the
publication, in 2000, of “Neighbors” by the historian Jan T. Gross, a searing
account of the covered-up slaughter in Jedwabne, a once half-Jewish village in
northeastern Poland where hundreds of Jews, including children, were murdered
in a savage pogrom in 1941…

“Aftermath” succeeds in bringing the past into the present.
The director calls it “warning of how easy it is to cross the line between”
using a slur “and regarding your neighbor as subhuman, then condemning him to
death in a burning barn.”

Predicated on the unraveling of the social fabric,
“Aftermath” is a thriller that’s meant to stun. As Mr. Pasikowski reported, “A
lot of the film’s screenings ended in utter silence.”

Annette Insdorf for the Huffington Post:

Although the Polish film Aftermath seems to have nothing to
do with Halloween, its release tomorrow at New York’s Lincoln Plaza and Cinema
Village invites a connection. This fictional drama — which has elicited
tremendous controversy in Poland — is not simply about two brothers who
investigate their father’s actions during World War II; it is literally about a
haunted house, and ghosts that never left the landscape of mass murder…

Aftermath is one of two new Polish films that tackle the
complex legacy of Polish Jews and Polish Christians during the Holocaust; the
other is Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, which won the Grand Prize at the Gdynia Film
Festival a few weeks ago, as well as the Critics’ Prize at the Toronto Film Festival.

Kurt Osenlund for Time Out New York:

Even those familiar with the Jedwabne massacre of 1941 (a
secrecy-shrouded slaughter of Polish Jews whose killers were eventually outed
as locals rather than Nazi occupants) are likely to be riveted by Wladyslaw
Pasikowski’s loose yet fearless retelling, banned in parts of its native
country… With its slow-burn pacing and horrifying reveals, Aftermath
remains a deeply compelling puzzle.

Kenneth Turan for the LA Times:

One of the most effective of “Aftermath’s” notions
is to make the investigators not the classic righteous Gentiles of so many
Holocaust movies but angry, dissatisfied, antisocial, even borderline
anti-Semitic individuals drawn into a quest for the truth almost against their

Strongly acted by Stuhr, Czop and a capable supporting cast,
“Aftermath” succeeds, as films like this rarely do, on both the plot
level (Pasikowski’s earlier thriller, “Psy,” was a major hit in
Poland) and in its ability to be sensitive to the issues involved. Though its
sensibility is different, “Aftermath” shares with “12 Years a
Slave” a willingness to be unblinking in the face of great evil.

John DeFore for the Hollywood Reporter:

A Polish village is forced to acknowledge it has whitewashed
Holocaust history in Aftermath, Wladyslaw Pasikowski’s powerful but not
bombastic fiction film inspired by actual events. Reportedly using the story of
a mass killing in Jedwabne (detailed in the Jan Gross book
“Neighbors”) as a jumping-off point, Pasikowski imagines a community
whose Catholic population was far more complicit in Nazi crimes than they
admitted to their children, leaving half-buried secrets for later generations
to uncover. The film has stirred controversy in Poland since its first
screenings at the Warsaw Film Festival a year ago; it will draw less attention
here, for obvious reasons, but its novel approach and assured execution should
elicit strong reviews in an art house release.

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Dear Mr. Kowalski
At first it’s an ignorance to call T. Gross book content as fact. It’s enough to read generalities about it to know, how many lies are in it. You are professor, You should know every theory should be confirmed before call it true. Secondly, movie is far from ‘facts’ shown in book – I think you know it.
PS: I’m sorry for mistakes in this text, my english is still bad.

Ludwik Kowalski

The Polish film "Aftermath" is worth seeing and thinking about. It is fictional, probably based on what really happened in Jedwable. Two Polish brothers (ages about 40) discover evidence that their own deceased parents participated in an atrocity (killing 26 families and appropriating their property). The younger brother thinks it would be better to keep quiet; he is afraid foreign media will use the evidence to darken Poland's reputation. The older brother feels morally bound to share the discovery with the entire world.

Several days before seeing the film I faced the same dilemma, after finding three racist documents on Polish fora. After some hesitation I translated them and posted them at my university website:

I hope that by translating and posting these documents
I am not helping racists to spread the ideology of hatred.

Ludwik Kowalski, Ph.D.

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