If you saw the film “The Invisibles” in the 2018 AJFF, you watched a fictionalized documentary shedding light on Jewish citizens hiding in Berlin despite the Nazi’s declaration of the city being “free of Jews.”
Here, we are privy to another group of relatively unknown Nazi resisters of the Holocaust, a secret band of 60 Jewish journalists, scholars and community leaders in the Warsaw Ghetto known as the “Oyneg Shabes” (Sabbath Joy), who fought back against Nazi propaganda with pen and paper and then buried their writings, drawings, poems, and eyewitness accounts in containers under the Ghetto itself just before it was burned to the ground.
Like ‘The Invisibles,” it is a fictionalized documentary feature that uses newsreels, voice-overs and re-enactments to bring the story, based on the book by Samuel D. Kassow, to life.
Roberta Grossman, the documentary’s director, creates a comprehensive portrait of the atrocities taking place in Warsaw at the time and reveals the risks taken by this courageous group. The staged scenes are well-acted, while readings from diaries and letters reveal how similar Warsaw’s inhabitants were to us, making it especially heartbreaking.
At the end of this powerful film, we are told that in 1999, UNESCO added three collections from Poland into its Memory of the World Register: The scientific works of Copernicus, the masterpieces of Chopin, and the Oyneg Shabes archives. There is no doubt that this is an important piece of work. Indeed, it will be spotlighted as part of a global screening event on Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. UNESCO headquarters in Paris will join more than 200 venues in 40 countries to host screenings of this documentary film in a variety of languages.
Janice Convoy-Hellmann has been involved with the AJFF for almost 10 years, serving on both the Evaluation and Programming committees and pre-screening hundreds of films in advance of the festival.