Papirosen: Forced Into the New World by the Holocaust


Have a little patience with Papirosen, Gastón Solnicki’s documentary about his Jewish Polish-Argentinian family, forced to the New World by the Holocaust.

If you’ve ever watched someone baking bread, you know how a complex, warm, and delicious result can come from slowly working, turning, and layering raw material. Solnicki’s home movie-style camera lingers, sometimes until things get uncomfortable, and he makes ingenious use of home movie clips.

His family were victims of one of the world’s great tragedies, and the younger ones may yet be. That is, it seems possible that the family’s micro-culture has been shaped by the horrors endured by Victor, the family’s patriarch, his mother, and the others we don’t meet.

The Solnickis are a piquantly neurotic family, sadness and anger wrapping around their happiness and success. We see the kinds of mundane crimes and misdemeanors that most families are guilty of (“You’re an idiot, Yanina!”).

Solnicki’s spliced-together, back-and-forth approach at first seems a jumble, but of course his choices are deliberate, and they pile up into revealing art. The clearest storyline is Victor’s search for a legal birth certificate, which sends him through the Polish bureaucracy.

He gets the document, correcting the past, and shops for an antique toy car that brings him as much frustration as joy. The most gripping footage of a newborn ever recorded ends the film, a boy we’ve already met. Who knows what kind of man he’ll be?