Jewish Film Focus (Extract)

Jewish Film Festival lights up Jerusalem with new takes and old favorites

20 film (photo credit: Jerusalem Cinematheque)
20 film
(photo credit: Jerusalem Cinematheque)
Extract from an article in Issue 20, January 21, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. For full story please subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here to subscribe. Jews bring Poles good luck, a group of Jerusalem students discovered when they traveled to Lodz for a filmmaking workshop. A doll with a coin attached to it or an image of a Jew holding money is supposed to bring good luck to its owner. But if it faces the door, the money will leave the house. Also in Lodz is a bronze sculpture of a Jewish-looking man sitting on a bench. Rubbing his nose brings good luck as well. Insights like these led to "I Am You Are" (2007), four short student films about Polish-Jewish relations, that were screened at the recent Ninth Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, organized by the Jerusalem Cin?math?que. The 60 films - to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008 - were balanced between drama and documentary and between Israel and the Diaspora. "This year's festival screened new Holocaust films that focus on the memories of events rather than the events themselves," said Tamar Cohen, the festival's curator. "We also organized a conference on 'Cinema as a Site for Memory' and selected films that deal with the hardships of maintaining memory." The festival also acknowledged the 10th anniversary of the Cin?math?que's Joan Sourasky-Constantiner Holocaust Multimedia Research Center, which acquires, catalogues and preserves films of the Holocaust, and recently began film digitization for long-term preservation. Charting new ways to remember the Holocaust is "And Along Came Tourists" (Germany, 2007), a semi-autobiographical drama of a young German man fulfilling his alternative military service as a volunteer at Auschwitz. Sven is assigned to look after Stanislav Krzeminski, a Polish Christian former inmate who has remained at the camp since its liberation. Krzeminski earns his keep by repairing suitcases for the Auschwitz Museum in order to ready them for display. The intended exhibit shows a mound of suitcases, tossed together helter skelter, each with its Jewish owner's name prominently written on it. The guards told the prisoners their suitcases would be returned. Instead they were gassed, and their suitcases consigned to storage. Krzeminski is a diligent worker, but unaccountably, the returned suitcases are always somehow defective, curiously enough, with brand-new flaws. In this condition, they cannot be exhibited. Krzeminski, like Ulysess's wife Penelope, unravels at night that which he creates during the day. His motivation is puzzling until we learn that his job in Auschwitz during the war was to personally relieve the incoming victims of their suitcases, guaranteeing that the last words they would ever hear would be his lie. But as long as his sabotage keeps the suitcases in the conservation lab and out of the museum, he vindicates himself by preventing the pitiful booty - of his own doing - from ending up in a display case, fodder for gawking tourists. The museum, however, does not see it that way, and he is fired. Later, Sven sneaks into the lab and brings back suitcases for Krzeminski to mend, convincing him that the dismissal has been reversed in what is a blatant lie. Now that Krzeminski himself is the victim of a lie, he can attain closure on the one he perpetrated. Auschwitz's last wartime resident finally accepts his sister's long-standing invitation and goes to live with her. Extract from an article in Issue 20, January 21, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. For full story please subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here to subscribe.