The Painful Fragility of the Past: Our Review of ‘Aida’s Secrets’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - January 12, 2018
The Painful Fragility of the Past: Our Review of ‘Aida’s Secrets’

Identity is fragile and fluid. A person can start a new life, and that process is easier during volatile times like war. But doing so means leaving people. Alon and Shaul Schwarz’ Aida’s Secrets starts out with a member of the latter group, their 67-year-old uncle Izak Szewelewicz. He remembers schoolyard taunts, the other children telling him that he’s not a biological member of his family.

Turns out there’s a truth to that, and he eventually meets his biological mother Aida Zasadsinksa. Izak’s adopted family loves him very much, but there’s another thing that both they and Aida are hiding from him. Alon goes in front of the camera and finally lets Izak in on a secret.

After the war and the Holocaust, Aida gave up both Izak and his baby brother. The brother’s name is Shep and lives in Winnipeg. This revelation is one of many moments of genuine emotion that the Schwarz brothers capture on film. But they still instill a sensitive tone to these complex events. That tone replaces cringe factor that other and more famous family documentaries have.

Besides, they are all in this together and they have to move forward despite of the past’s lies. With the family comes the many voices giving airtime to the many possible scenarios. As Izak and Shep get together, what led to their fracturing? Shep’s daughter Melanie introduces the idea that Aida might not have left the brothers willfully.

The records and pictures of Aida aren’t enough to tell the story. Their curiosity leads them to visiting Aida who also lives in Canada.  We never can get the full story here from her but the parts we get are more than satisfying. Aside from family discussions, we get get talking heads of people who knew Aida.

The war was over but people like Aida still faced roadblocks that still affected her decades later. Nonetheless, Aida’s qualities are equally as important as the details of her past. The movie ensures that both shone through. We get a glimpse of Aida’s life at the Bergen Belsen camp where Holocaust survivors and their children lived.

Despite of what she suffered she still lived a fulfilling life and so did her children. The film also shows us Shep’s career as a Paralympic athlete. History is a bottomless well of personal stories. And Aida and her children’s narrative is one that’s compelling and continuously engaging.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.