A large still-life painting hung on the wall above Lilka Elbaum’s childhood bed in Lodz, Poland. It was the first thing she saw when she woke up, and the last thing she saw before she fell aslep.
This painting hung on this very spot perhaps since the building was first inhabited in the late 1890s. Until the war these were Jewish families, then during the war, a German family, and then after the war, Lilka’s Jewish family. Hence, the painting ultimately became a silent witness to the tragic history of Lodz’s Jews. The painting was removed from the apartment in October 1968, when Lilka’s family, along with the majority of Polish Jews, were expelled from Poland.
In the film “Still Life in Lodz”, the metaphor of the painting is used to tell the story of Lilka Elbaum, now living in Boston, who returns to Lodz in search of objects from her memory. In her journey Lilka is accompanied by Paul Celler, a New Yorker and Roni Ben Ari, an Israeli with shared histories, which bind them to Lodz and the quest to find traces of family memories.
Director Slawomir Grünberg, an outstanding documentary filmmaker and prestigious Emmy-award winner, tells the story of the once vibrant Jewish community in Lodz, its almost total destruction during the Shoah, its post-war revival, expulsion from Poland in 1968, and finally, its present-day Jewish community. Using an innovative format, this historical essay combines unique archival materials, authentic drawings from the Ghetto, elements of the modern language of creative animation and special effects with the modern documentary scenes.
Slawomir Grünberg's film makes use of animated reconstructions of the film main characters’ memories and research. They are complemented by original re-photographs taken by Stefan Brajter. The film also features postwar artwork by David Friedmann (1893-1980) depicting the harrowing daily life in the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz and death march scenes.
Among the archival materials are unique scenes from the Lodz ghetto, photographs and film footage from Litzmannstadt, as the Germans called Lodz during the war. It includes the entry of German troops in 1939, and Soviet troops in 1945, and post-war archives of Lodz. This multi-media technique allows viewers a unique entry point to understanding Lodz, the Holocaust, and family stories we follow in the film.
The original film score, composed by Wojciech Lemański and recorded with the String Orchestra PRIMUZ under the baton of conductor Łukasz Błaszczyk, is also an exceptional value in this artistic film.
„Still Life in Lodz"
A film by Slawomir Grünberg
Written by: Lilka Elbaum and Slawomir Grünberg
Running Time: 75 minutes
Production: Poland / USA, 2019
Producer: LOGTV Films Polska in co-production with EC1 Łódź – City of Culture, LOGTV, Ltd. and National Center for Jewish Film