Aftermath (2012) Poklosie
Cast includes: Maciej Stuhr (Oblawa), Ireneusz Czop (In Darkness)
Writer/Director: Wladyslaw Pasikowski (Katyn)
Genre: Drama | Mystery (107 minutes) Fiction based on historic events and “Neighbors,” a 2001 book by Jan T. Gross | Polish with subtitles
After claiming his luggage, Franc finds a taxi. Thanks to the nosy driver, we learn that Franc has been living in Chicago for the past 20 years and he’s back to visit his brother. The driver assumes he must be rich. Far from it… there aren’t many jobs for Poles in Chicago. They get the jobs others don’t want… asbestos removal and demolition… often working for Jewish business owners… no love there. The familiar Polish landscape makes Franc feel nostalgic, but this may not be a happy homecoming. From the bus stop, it’s a fairly long walk. Maybe Franc is on edge, but he believes he hears twigs snapping in the woods next to the road. When he stops, the noise stops. When he goes, the noise starts up again. Franc leaves his luggage on the side of the road, finds a branch to use as a weapon and goes in looking for the source of the sound. In stead he has an encounter with a low-hanging branch. Later, he finds his luggage has been stolen. The police don’t seem too concerned… “Probably vacationers.”
Vacationers? Not likely. Some parts of Poland may get tourists, but this isn’t one of them. WWII and years of Soviet occupation have left their mark… you have to be a farmer to appreciate this land. Or maybe it makes more sense just to leave and go to America. It’s no surprise that Józef isn’t happy to see Franc. They’ve got family issues… like not coming home for the funerals… but lately, there’s something else. Why did Józef’s wife leave him? Why do neighbors throw rocks through the kitchen window? In town, their so-called friends are hostile. Old man Sudecki is angry with Józef for that business on the road… the one next to the old tannery. Franc doesn’t understand but decides to go have a look. That’s when he discovers many large but shallow holes in the road. He still has no idea what Józef has done. Now the bank is challenging the brother’s title to the farm. What? It’s their family’s farm… has been for generations. Eventually, Józef realizes Franc isn’t giving up, so he shows him… 328 stones… grave markers that Józef has found around town and taken. Now they’re standing upright in one of the farm’s fields… like a new cemetery.
Because of the Hebrew lettering, they’re obviously Jewish gravestones. Franc is as baffled as the town’s people. Why would Józef do this? His brother has actually learned the Hebrew alphabet, so he can read the names. “I was curious.” Aftermath is fiction, but it’s based on actual events. A 2001 book documents events that happened in Jedwabne, Poland. It won’t come as a surprise that they’re related to WWII. Prior to 1940, Poland had Europe’s largest Jewish community… nearly 3 million. Today, it’s just a few thousand… yet anti-Semitism is alive and well. Jewish property, including gravestones, was repurposed as needed… eliminating not only the people, but all evidence that they existed. That’s why this film has been so controversial. Many theaters in Poland have refused to show it. Aftermath unfolds as a mystery, so it’s very engaging. It’s extremely well acted and well made. As events unfold, the brothers are drawn deeper into the mystery. “The more they want to hide, the more I want to know.” It’s not just what… it’s also why.
3 popped kernels
The discovery of Jewish gravestones in a small Polish farming town leads two brothers to search for answers
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Primary Driver: Uncover information
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought provoking