A Polish film documenting crimes committed by Poles against their Jewish neighbours has provoked strong reactions in the country.
The movie, Aftermath, written and directed by Polish director Wladyslaw Pasikowski, is based on the events surrounding the Jedwabne massacre in July 1941 in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Aftermath tells the story of two brothers, Jozek and Franciszek. The older brother returns home after many years abroad and discovers that the long conflict between his younger brother and his neighbours is the result of a dark secret — a massacre that local Poles perpetrated against the Jews of the area years before. The controversial movie won the Critics’ Prize at this year’s Gdynia Film Festival, Poland’s most important festival of cinema.
A few days before Aftermath went on general release, a premiere attended by many public figures was held in Warsaw. One of Poland’s foremost directors, Andrzej Wajda, said after the premiere: “I am very happy that such a film has been made in Poland.” Poland’s Culture Minister, Bogdan Zdrojewski, also praised the movie and said: “I admire the courage in taking such a difficult theme and analysing, in a cinematic form, a dramatic episode in Poland’s history.”
The director of the film, Wladyslaw Pasikowski, said following the premiere: “It is one of the most painful chapters in Poland’s history. We already have a huge number of movies on the horrors committed by the Germans and the Soviets, I think it is time show the terrible things we did ourselves.”
The film gained mostly positive reviews from film critics in Poland. One described it as: “Moving and touching, a film that makes you think after you leave the theatre. Aftermath is not an easy movie for Poles to watch and impossible to be indifferent about.”
The film elicited mixed emotions from the public. Some accused the Polish actors appearing in the movie of slandering their country, and actor Maciej Stuhr, who plays one of the brothers, said he had received death threats.