December 17, 2018

Remembering Poland’s Jews

Jewish roots in predominantly Catholic Poland canbe traced back to the 11th century. But when an estimated 88 percentof the 3.3 million Jews in Poland died in the Holocaust, thecountry’s thriving Yiddish theater, literature and culture ceased toexist as well.

The Jewish response to this tragedy is familiar tomany. But what was the reaction of the people of Poland? The UCLAFilm and Television Archive attempts to answer this question with theretrospective “Remembering the Jewish Experience in Polish Film,”which commences on Thursday, May 14. The series will featureselections from the past half century that examine the Polishresponses to World War II, as well as Jewish experiences before andafter the war.

Starting things off will be “Our Children,” a taleof two itinerant comics who stage a show about Warsaw ghetto lifeonly to be criticized by young orphans in the audience. One of thelast Yiddish-language films made, “Our Children” includes actualchild Holocaust survivors in its cast and was banned in Poland for 50years. Screening along with it will be “Postcard From a Journey,” a1985 film about a Jewish ghetto resident who calmly and methodicallyprepares himself for the horrors that await him in the concentrationcamps — and who teaches a young boy in his care to do thesame.

On Saturday, May 16, “Austeria” and “MarchCaresses” will screen. The former is set in a country inn, where anAustrian baroness, Chassidic Jews and a Hungarian soldier all seekrefuge from advancing Cossacks on the eve of the first world war.”March” concerns a Jewish high school student who’s framed forcorrupting Polish youth after a suspicious photo of a bruised bodyemerges.

The following night, the archive presents “WhiteBear,” based on a true story of a Jewish scientist who escapes fromthe grip of the Nazis and hides in a small resort by disguisinghimself as a performing bear. The 1959 film is followed by “There WasNo Sun,” the story of Chaja, a young Jewish woman who seeks refuge ata farmhouse, falls in love with a young man on the farm, only toevoke the suspicions of the Gestapo.

The series concludes on Tuesday, May 19, with “TheHunting Beater,” the tale of a group of Hungarian Jews who escape aNazi transport at the same time that a hunt is being organized for agroup of Nazi dignitaries; and “Still Only This Forest,” a film setin 1942 about a former worker for a wealthy Jewish family who agreesto smuggle the family’s young daughter out of the Warsaw ghetto tosafety, battling her own anti-Semitism and her growing affection forthe child.

All programs will begin at 7:30 p.m., with theSunday, May 17, screening scheduled for 7 p.m. The features are allin Polish with English subtitles, except for the Yiddish-language”Our Children.” Screenings will be held at the James Bridges Theater,located at the northeast corner of the UCLA campus, near HilgardAvenue and Sunset Boulevard. Tickets are $6 each, $4 for students andseniors, and are available at the theater, beginning one hour beforeeach show time. For more information, call (310) 206-3456.