A visit to Poland brings painful memories for Marc Minkowski, an accomplished French opera conductor and descendent of his great-grandparents August and Tekla Minkowski who were successful bankers and philanthropists. An interest in discovering the artists on his mother’s side of the family leads Minkowski to join forces with director Rafael Lewandowski and begin researching his family’s legacy. Jewish genealogical research in Warsaw is particularly difficult, as most of the records had been destroyed in the war. Minkowski enlists the help of the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw and several other Polish historians to help track down traces of August’s business dealings, property ownership, and the records of military and civil service of his 4 sons, Mietek, Pawel, Jan and Anatol. The filmmakers find the Minkowski family to be among the elite of Polish society; the patriarchs held important roles in economic, civil and military positions and Marc’s own parents and grandparents were pioneers in the fields of pediatrics and neurology. As the National and Sanation movements of the late 1930’s clashed and war broke out, the Minkowski family would soon find the Poland they knew to be gone forever. On August’s 90th birthday, several months before the outbreak of the war, the Minkowskis gather together in Warsaw for the last time.
- Grand opening of the New Museum of Polish Jews in Warsaw 2014
- KinoPolska Paris / Toulouse 2014
- Rome Le Giornate del dialogo e della memoria 2015
- Jewish International Film Festival
By witnessing Mark Minkowski’s “come back” to Warsaw I began to explore, as in my previous films, the interdependence between past and present as well as individual memory and collective memory. But I also wanted to show how the artist’s work, sensitivity and evolution of choices are derived from a constant reflection on the origin and components of his cultural identity.
From a historical perspective, the history of the Minkowski family sheds new light on the evolution undergone by our continent since the beginning of the 20th century. The fate of the conductor’s ancestors is in fact eminently European. It shows a great profusion of artistic, scientific and human exchanges that prevailed in the 1920s and 1930s between East and West. But it is also marked by the tragedy of intolerance, anti-Semitism, war and totalitarianism that pervaded our civilization afterwards. Thus, I consider it emblematic of a violent line of division that Nazism, and later Stalinism, drew on the fate of the inhabitants of Central Europe, as well as on their relationships with those of Western Europe. One community was emerging in Europe but the war and its subsequent consequences totally destroyed it.
-Rafael Lewandowski, Director