WHO WILL WRITE OUR HISTORY – Review by Martha K. Baker

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Who Will Write Our History? stuns with personal stories of Polish Jews in WWII.

Last month, Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old stunned movie-goers with its innovative restoration of vintage films from WWI. On Sunday, January 27, prepare to be amazed again at a one-day showing of another re-casting of memorabilia, this time recording stories of World War II.

The backstory is this: In November 1940, Nazis stuffed 450,000 Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. To tell their stories, a clandestine band of journalists and scholars, led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum, rebelled against the Nazi propaganda declaring Jews as hairy, dirty, and undesirable scum. Ringelblum asked, “Will Germans write our history or will we?” To off-set the lies, Ringelblum and his cohorts collected eye-witness accounts from the Jewish perspective and, in the end, provided documents for persecution of the persecutors.

The documents — personal stories, drawings, clippings — were buried in three archival boxes, only two of which were unearthed after Warsaw was bombed to smithereens.

Director, writer, and producer Roberta Grossman tells the story of the project, code-named Oyneg Shabes, or “the joys of Sabbath,” based on Samuel Kassow’s book. Grossman interwove archival films with reconstruction. For once, the re-acting is not embarrassing. It works. That’s partly because scenes, shot in Poland, L.A., and Atlanta, are cast behind actors reading significant words from diaries and narratives. The actors include Joan Allen as writer Rachel Auerbach and Adrien Brody as Ringelblum, adding just the right amount of vocal drama to inherently tragic scenes.

I’m Martha K. Baker. From the Grand Center Arts District, this is 88.1, KDHX, St. Louis.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Who Will Write Our History is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for February 8, 2019

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Martha K. Baker

I first taught film at Lakeland College in Wisconsin in 1969 and became a professional film reviewer in 1976 in St. Louis, Mo. Through the years, I have reviewed films for the St. Louis Business Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Episcopal Life, and KWMU (NPR), among other outlets. I've reviewed at KDHX radio, my current outlet, for nearly 20 years.