Aftermath - 2012 Polish Film

The Polish movie, Aftermath or Pokłosie, was released in its native country on November 9th, 2012, and on November 1st, 2013, in the United States. It was both written and directed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski. It was distributed by Menemsha Films and Monolith Films. The movie is spoken in Polish, as could be imagined. Initially Aftermath was going to be titled Kaddish, which is a Jewish prayer used for those who are in a state of mourning.

Around the turn of the 21st century a man and historian named Jan T. Gross published a work called Neighbors. According to Gross and his research the Polish were responsible for murdering hundreds of Jews living in Jedwabne. As can be expected, his new findings and declaration caused quite a stir especially in the Polish community. Initially it was believed that it had been the Nazis who had killed these Jews, and many accused Gross of anti-Polish slander. Other Polish people looked into the history more closely and were struck with a sense of curiosity, and one of those people was the writer and director of Aftermath, Pasikowski. Pasikowski had a lot of trouble getting the film made because it is still a very touchy subject for many Poles. He faced challenges in securing financial funds and in determining the most tactful way to tell the story. After seven years the producer, Dariusz Jablonski, got financial backing for the film.

Aftermath is a contemporary drama and it takes place in a fictional town called Gurówka. The whole story unravels in the early 2000s and falls on a Polish man named Franciszek Kalina. Franciszek has lived in Chicago for many decades and things are set in motion when he agrees, although begrudgingly, to return back to Poland. He comes home to his brother Josef, who is still running and maintaining the family farm. He learns that although the town is much the same his brother is quite different in several ways. For one, his wife has left him, and he is in fact being shunned by the community because he had been collecting Jewish tombstones and putting them out for display on his land. These tombstones had been used in a no-longer-occupied road as paving stones for the German forces. 

Not only does Josef spend his time and energy hunting down and hauling the stones into their new cemetery he even goes to the trouble of restoring them. No one in the town talks about the disappearances of the Jews, even now. At the beginning Franciszek does not understand why his brother is going all of this, but soon he adapts the same mindset as Josef and begins helping him. Together the two brothers begin unearthing more and more history, gathering land records and even bodies, all against the wishes of the town which is growing increasingly unhappy with Josef and Franciszek. Eventually they discover that there is a terrible secret and monstrous lies hidden in the town—that the Poles themselves, and not the Nazis, had murdered many of the local Jews. Violence erupts as the truth unfolds.

Although Aftermath is seen as entertainment in many places it is much more than that in Poland. Not only is the film widely debated in Poland, some right-wing critics calling it Anti-Polish, but it has even been banned in certain places. The film was made out of a sense of duty to history in an attempt to provoke thoughtful interest and discussion about its content.

IMDb gives Aftermath 7.3/10 stars. Most of those who have seen it in the United States found it to be a very good movie worth the watch. Some reviews say that it is interesting and engaging even for those who are not interested in the historical aspect of the film. Many who watch Aftermath do care about the history behind it, however, and go on to call it sad but factual. Many say they do not understand why it has caused so much controversy as history does not change based on opinions, and even so, it was a very long time ago. Viewers say the cast and acting were solid, to say the least, and that the overall quality of the production was good.

Of course, there are others who strongly disliked Aftermath for its message, many of whom call it propaganda. One critic says that the relationship between the Poles and Jews is not realistically depicted, as it was much more complicated than the film presented. They state that there were reasons for resentment between Poles and Jews which Aftermath did not explain, such as the Jews trying to submit Poland to Soviet rule. They also say that German troops were likely influencing the murder of the Jews more than was showed. Whatever your opinions are the film provides a thought-provoking piece.