Jola Dylewska: Marek Edelman… and there was Love

in the Ghetto… made in cooperation with Andrzej Wajda and Agnieszka Holland

Marek Edelman (1919-2009): Holocaust survivor and the last leader of the Warsaw Ghetto. When being interviewed – close up of his face, smoking one cigarette after the other – he appears to be a grumpy old man apparently not liking all the questions, at the same time as he enjoys, and he does that very well, to talk about the women he knew, the couples he remembers. No talk about the horror in the ghetto, there was (also) love in the ghetto. That’s what Edelman wants to remember. There is a text at the end credits: “He always said: “It’s easy to hate, but love requires effort and dedication”.

It’s about Love in the Ghetto in a film that is built up in a very simple way: Edelman talking, b/w archive from the ghetto, love songs, and staged scenes mostly with no dialogue, love scenes, well made, mostly without dialogue, co-written by Holland and co-dramatised by Wajda.

It sounds schematic but it works, it is touching, there is a fine never bombastic editing from Edelman to the staged scenes to the strong archive photos from the ghetto. There is Tosia, the nurse, Dola the red-haired beauty, Pola who leaves her boyfriend to go with her mother to the Umschlagplatz, where the wagons were waiting for them.. as they were for the blond Hendusia Himelfarb, who could have been saved, Edelman said to her, but who chose to walk with the children from the sanatorium…

Umschlagplatz – Edelman stood there watching the crowds – thousands of people – passing by, waiting to see if some of his pals came that way. “What could you see in their eyes”, the director asks him,”Nothing, it was one big crowd passing me”.

It is painful for him to talk about it, he responds irritated and he refuses to say yes to the director, when she says that the wagons were going to the gas chambers. ”I don’t know”. He himself was working at the hospital, he had a card to show, so he was not deported. In a scene from the hospital white cards are distributed, a woman gets one but wants it to be passed on to her daughter…

There is a monument in Warsaw, where the Umschlagplatz was. You see it in the film. On the wall it is written: Between 1942 and 1943, more than 300,000 Jews from the ghetto that had been established in Warsaw went to the Nazi death camps along this path of suffering.

Poland, Germany, 2019, 80 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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