26.07.2024 - online

Close-ups – a series of short films around the (post)Jewish heritage

The protagonists of the etudes, contemporary residents of these localities and descendants of Jewish families who left their small homelands before and after the Holocaust, transcend temporal and geographical boundaries to reconstruct the local past and present.

"Close ups" is a series of three film shorts presenting the issue of (post)Jewish heritage in situ – in selected contemporary local contexts of former Polish-Jewish towns: Kaluszyn, Tykocin and Opatów. They reveal a kaleidoscope of symbols and relationships – a web of meanings that is woven around local Jewish history from personal perceptions, emotions, experiences and family stories – but also active, acting non-human entities, such as places, buildings or everyday objects that, like eyewitnesses, can point to or evoke the forgotten. They are re-mapping and identifying local heritage. The protagonists of the etudes decipher traces of history by reconstructing the genealogy and identity of a place, often bringing parallel or hitherto disconnected worlds closer, which, through mutual reflection, gain actuality proving that reality is never complete.

Opatów: a map of memory (release July 26)

Relying on optics, the "shtetl" as a concept, is a real space, an economic system or simply a certain idea, a vision. The short film touches on the influx of memory and post-memory, which is initiated most often thanks to the development of social media and the Internet. New technologies help connect local activists local activists and the descendants of the Jews of these localities: Survivors, descendants of labor migrants from the turn of the 20th century, and descendants of emigrants from the 1920s and 1930s. For both sides, these encounters are often epiphanic: they are a discovery and surprise of each other's presence, interest and attentiveness. They evoke not only reflection on history itself, but also imaginings of alternative realities in which "we would be neighbors."

Kałuszyn: neighbourhood encounters

An etude dealing with the subject of heritage without heirs (stateless heritage) and heritage adoption. "Whose heritage?" is a question that local actors (individuals, but also local governments) ask themselves when facing the dilemma of practical management of (post)Jewish property in the community. Most often this question is asked in the context of Jewish cemeteries. Who assumes the responsibility of taking care of this heritage? What is determinant: the sense of local community – treating Jewish and non-Jewish residents as one community or the difference in fate and identity?

Tykocin: the missing half

In the sections of the records of the District Liquidation Office (OUL), the office that determined the status of property including so-called "abandoned property" after World War II, the enigmatic (and euphemistic) term "Jew left" is used to describe the legal situation of the object. However, in the family archives of the local community, it is not uncommon to find also preserved notarial deeds for the sale of a windmill or house – often drawn up post factum, after the war – a formal settlement of the status of the previously occupied property. Traces of the "missing half" of the town today exist in various forms of presence and emptiness – balancing on the borderline between the lived and symbolic worlds – they become a source of diverse interpretations of the past and present.

The series has been created as part of the program accompanying the temporary exhibition "(post)JEWISH... Opatów shtetl through the eyes of Majer Kirszenblat."