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Po Polsku
A Journey Home

Each of us wants to return to the place we came from. A place where the journey to understand who we are begins and ends. In Yiddish this place is called shtetl. And when we get there, we hope to meet a righteous man.
Marian and Zybszek
Filmmaker Marian Marzynski looks at history through the eyes of the present in the three hour Shtetl.Produced over the course of four years, Shtetl takes a bold and illuminating look at Jewish/Polish relationships in both the past and the present.Shot in Poland, Israel, and the United States by Slawomir Grunberg, Shtetl- like Claude Lanzman's Shoah- is a universal tale about Jews and those who live around them.
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SHTETL premiered on PBS Wednesday, April 17, 1996
SILVER BATON for Excellence in Radio/Television Journalism, duPont- Columbia University, 1997
GRAND PRIX at the Cinema Du Reel - Paris, France, 1996
Brief Description
The film starts when Marian Marzynski, the filmmaker accompanies Nathan Kaplan, a 70 year-oldJewish man from Chicago to Bransk, a smallPolish shtetl in Eastern Poland.It is here where their confrontation with the past begins.Throughout the film, several Holocaust survivors will make their way back to Bransk and share with us their stories. Shtetl takes a bold and illuminating look at Jewish/Polish relationships in both the past and the present.Shot in Poland, Israel, and the United States, Shtetl is a universal tale about Jews and those who live around them.However, unlike Shoah, which tells the story of these who died, Marzynski's Shtetl is a film about those who survived.Its moral is about civil rights for a minority living in a multi-ethnic society.
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Expanded Description
The film begins with a 70 year-old Jewish man from Chicago, Nathan Kaplan, who wants to know more about Bransk, the Polish shtetl in eastern Poland where his father was born and lived.He writes to the town hall in Bransk, only to receive an answer from a young Polish gentile that no Jews are left in Bransk; in fact, the shtetl died when the 2,500 Jews who lived there were carried by horse wagons to Treblinka's gas chambers in 1942.Nathan, trying to better understand both his father's history, and the history of Jews in the shtetl, travels to Bransk.There he meets Zbyszek, the young Polish historian with an apparent passion for Jewish history, and their encounter with the realities of the past begins. Shtetl carries with it the image of a small community in the midst of an indifferent or hostile majority.At its borders, differences bred suspicion and conflict between Jews and Catholics.Then came the Holocaust.In Bransk, a 96-year old miller cannot believe what he has witnessed and cries over the death of humanity.Nathan and Zbyszek struggle with the clash between the violence and hatred of the past, and the apparent beauty and peacefulness of the country.

ZbyszekRomaniuk comes to America and meets American Jews whose ancestors came from Bransk to build a new life on this shore.Bransk was home, they tell him.In America, Zbyszek is accepted. But in Israel, however, Zbyszek finds bitterness.There, he is confronted with the uncompromising opinions of a group of Ramat-Aviv high school seniors who have just returned from their tour of concentration camps in Poland.They tell him that he is not just another objective historian searching for the truth about Polish-Jewish relations, but rather, just another gentile nursing his guilt, incapable of condemning his anti-Semitic compatriots.Now Zbyszek is feeling the heat from both sides.Back in Bransk, he finds graffiti on the door of his apartment: Jude and Jewish servant are scribed into the walls.There are rumors circulating that Zbyszek brings Jews to town so that they may reclaim their property. It is at the height of this pressure that Zbyszek, now the town's vice-mayor, prepares his speech on the history of Bransk for the celebration of the town's 500th anniversary.He chooses not to mention the presence of Jews in Bransk, even though they were a part of its history for over 250 years.As a historian he's committed to the subject, but as a public servant he cannot tell the people what they don't want to hear. Bransk celebrates its 500 years.Our town was Polish, is Polish, and will be Polish forever, exclaims Romaniuk.Out of tune, If I Were a Rich Man is played by the town's orchestra, but passes unnoticed.
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