A quiet black and white film made a big impression, November 23, when it was screened at the Women’s Collective Philanthropy Program’s Pearls of Wisdom event on “Women and the Holocaust.”
Ida (pronounced Eeda) is an award-winning 2013 Polish drama directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. It was attended by an audience of about 200 at the Chamber Theatre at Ben Franklin Place in Centrepointe.
“It is one of the quietest films I’ve ever seen and that says so incredibly much,” said Canadian filmmaker Karen Shopsowitz, who led the after-film discussion. “There’s so much quiet in it that we are not used to seeing in American movies.”
There is no sound track, and scenes are bleak and lonely.
In 1960s Poland, Anna, a young novice nun, is told by her prioress that, before her vows can be taken, she must visit her family. Anna travels to her aunt Wanda, a heavy-drinking judge and former prosecutor associated with the Stalinist regime, who dispassionately reveals that Anna’s actual name is Ida Lebenstein, and that her parents were Jewish and were murdered during the war. Ida and Wanda embark on a journey to find their resting place.
Shopsowitz said, watching the film for a second time, she noticed so much more than in her first viewing. She said the director chose to do the film in black and white “because it placed it in the look of 1962.”
Audience members commented positively on the lighting and the shadows, and the opportunity to “fill in the blanks yourself in the story” and put your own spin on it.
“The black and white reflected the depressive nature of the women,” said audience member Michelle Meyer, a child of Holocaust survivors. “There was so much that was powerful in this film. I would like to see way more films like this.”
Like the characters in Ida, “postwar Poland had a lot of people who weren’t sure where they fit in,” said Shopsowitz. “Now, Poland is having a real resurgence. It has been a very difficult thing for Poles to deal with. This film has done very well internationally. It wasn’t a slam dunk in Poland.”
The event was supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Ottawa.
Poland was a centre of Jewish culture, said Andrzej Fafara, Poland’s deputy ambassador to Canada, and there were three-and-a-half million Polish Jews in 1939. Almost all perished in the war, killed by German Nazis, and only 100,000 remained in Poland by 1945, he said.
“The Museum of the History of Polish Jews dedicated to the 1,000-year history of Polish Jews has just opened in what was once the heart of Jewish Warsaw, one part of which became the Warsaw ghetto in 1940,” he said. “We are proud to recognize this history … and move forward and look to the future.”
Women’s Collective Philanthropy Program Co-chairs Eileen Melnick-McCarthy and Yaffa Greenbaum said
the event both honoured the women who experienced the Holocaust and educated “all of us” so that we never forget its legacy and lessons. The Women’s Collective Philanthropy Program, a program of the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation, is actively dedicated to helping women and children.
“This Pearls of Wisdom event supports our effort in raising funds for the Women’s Collective Endowment Fund, which provides grants to deserving programs for women and children in the Jewish community. The call for grants is issued in January 2015,” said Greenbaum.
The Women’s Collective Philanthropy Endowment Fund was created in 2009 and strives to engage, educate and empower women to become catalysts for change.
“These goals complement and inform everything we do – including choosing this film,” said Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation Chair Lynne Oreck-Wener, a founding member of the Women’s Collective Philanthropy Program.
For more information or to become involved with the Women’s Collective Philanthropy Program, contact Director of Development Arieh Rosenblum at email@example.com or 613-798-4696, ext. 270.