“Aftermath, “ the Polish film by director Wladyslaw Pasikowski, offers that rare phenomenon where fiction is more unsettling than reality, with a macabre Zombie-genre film finale that left me sobbing.
The setting is a post–World War II Polish village where the locals ostracize their own — two brothers — Josek (Maciej Stuhr) who inexplicably “plants” Jewish tombstones — which had been used as road covers — in a wheat field, and his brother Franek (Ireneusz Czop) who returns after years in Chicago. Why the antagonism toward the brothers?
Cinematographer Pawel Edelman so accurately captures the Polish countryside that I could smell the earthy wheat fields near the village. So like those surrounding the shtetl where my family members and their neighbors lie buried.
Following the film’s October 15 preview at Manhattan’s JCC — attended by the film’s producer Dariusz Jablonski, moderator Columbia University film scholar Annette Insdorf later told me how impressed she was with the sold out “well-informed audience. It was,” she said “what I would call the ‘creme de la crème’ of the ‘Polska intelligentsia’ which included Polish Cultural Attache Jerzy Onuch and Polish Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka.”
Insdorf called on Mordechai Paltiel, who, she explained “is noted for his pioneering work with Yad Vashem in acknowledging Righteous Gentiles… He picked up on something I had said, namely that my own father survived the Holocaust because he and his brothers were hidden by Polish peasants in the woods.” Insdorf added, “”Aftermath” includes no Righteous Gentiles, no character representing the smaller number of Poles who risked their lives to save Jewish neighbors.”