After the War: Memoirs of Exile

After the War: Memoirs of Exile

Film Session(s)

Venue(s)

52 minutes, Canada, USA, 2014

 

 

At the end of the war the Russians advance on the Prussian front. Georg, a young German father, is shot dead in front of his wife and eldest daughter. The bereaved family makes its way west, to Westphalia, then to the Atlantic coast, later arriving in Canada.

This feature documentary is an exploration of memory, and the mechanisms for the transmission of trauma across generations. The film experiments with the emotional archaeology of artifacts that are, at first sight, bereft of it. Artifacts such as photographs, travel documents, dry flowers, and intimate handwritten texts are shot up close, coming to life on screen and taking the viewer through an immersive travel in time.

The conceptual approach to this narrative makes it a singular war story, and yet charged with universality, relevant to any conflict. No physical or psychological violence is seen on screen, and yet the echoes are definitely there. By matching personal dilemmas and experiences with anchor historic events we’ve read about in history books and watched on movie screens, the film relegates the political to the background, bringing the personal to the forefront. Timing, accuracy, historic framework, and memory appear front and centre, allowing for a sensitive dissection of traumatic events that have, over the years, become de-personalized collective memories.

Interviews with the two surviving generations offer a foray into first- and second-hand memories passed on by the previous two, and attempt to fill in the blanks left by documents and snippets of family stories, navigating a precarious balance between trauma and the deafening absence of a time ‘before’.

War often deletes past and present to allow a semblance of future to flourish. It often becomes known and re-told through contemporary narratives, in which memory is fuzzy and tropes recreate, rather than narrate, events.

Post-conflict, when older generations die off, direct memory and knowledge of war dies with them; middle generations, born in and raised out of it, forget it as a comforting answer to trauma, for wont of inner peace, for the simple need to move beyond oppressive images; but what of younger generations, those who grow up in a ‘today’ in which that history all but ceased to exist? What memories eventually reach them, how are they filtered, and how do they condition who they eventually become?

 

Director(s): PJ Marcellino (Assist. Dir. Hermon Farahi)

Producer(s): PJ Marcellino