Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Marek Edelman… and There Was Love in the Ghetto’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Marek Edelman… and There Was Love in the Ghetto’

Marek Edelman was a Jewish man who joined and led the Polish resistance against the Nazis. The documentary Marek Edelman… and There Was Love in the Ghetto is not the first cinematic depiction of the man. It’s also not the first time that director Jolanta Dylewska. Every movie is an introduction and this is a weird way of doing that. Instead of focusing on the man, this film focuses on him being part of Warsaw.

Specifically, Dylewska shows him as tangentially involved in the love lives of several women, all of them having different men who are the real loves of their lives. She shows close-ups of actresses representing such women in her harsh digital camera. She then returns to a talking head of Edelman who divulges or withdraws parts of these women’s stories at his will. It’s an attempt to bring those bittersweet days to the big screen.

Holocaust documentaries are a dime a dozen, which is fine. Millions died and survived that historical ordeal and they deserve to tell all of their stories. There is that pressure within directors to re-imagine that era. One of the ways Dylewska does it is through a title card describing the Ghetto instead of just saying the word ghetto. She could have used some shorthand to get to her point about that era’s secret romances.

Dylewska’s film has a subversive point and it’s never boring. That is more than I can say about a few of the docs with more straightforward intentions. She has more credits as a cinematographer and another thing she’s trying to attempt here is to remind us that these people were real. It’s too bad that the reenactment portions here looks sloppy and cheap, taking away from any perspective about that era that she’s trying to make.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches 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.
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