This Israeli documentary opens old wounds in the remote Lithuanian village of Polnar, where over 100,000 – mainly Jews – were murdered by the Nazis during WWII. We listen to testimonies from ageing witnesses who everyday lived with the sound of the executioner’s gunfire and the stench of rotting bodies in nearby pits. The more we hear, the more the lines of passivity and responsibility blur as we learn of the villagers’ often cold response to the nearby slaughter. However, some of the most moving memories come from those who actually escaped death by a whisker, sometimes surviving for hours, if not days, in a hellish pile of their dead and rotting relatives and comrades.
Out of the Forest
A Film by: Limor Pinhasov & Yaron Kaftori
(Israel, 2004, 90 Minutes, Color, Hebrew/Russian/Polish/English, English subtitles)
“Friday July 11, 1941, the weather is nice with some warm wind blowing. Only a few clouds are in the sky. Shots were heard coming out of the forest.”
These are the opening words in the diary of Kazimierz Sakowicz, a Pole living in Ponar, a village in Lithuania. From 1941 until 1944, more than 100,000 people, most of them Jews, were killed in Ponar. Sakowicz decided to secretly write down what he heard and witnessed. Altogether he documented 835 days of the genocide.
Using Sakowicz’s diary as a primary source, the filmmakers tell the story of people who lived in the backyard of a mass murder site. It’s a story about neighbors and community in the hardest of times; about how different communities – Poles, Lithuanians, and Jews – see the same horrifying events totally differently. The film is built as a collage, using the accounts of locals, the testimonies of victims who miraculously escaped death at Ponar, the written diary, and images of Ponar today.
There is no archival footage, nor images of corpses or blood, but rather sensitive questioning and a discreet camera that succeeds in penetrating the superficially quiet surface of the village.
"Out of the Forest is an astonishing film and should take a prominent place in the ever-growing catalogue of holocaust documentary." - London Times
”The best film in years made on the holocaust. A monumental work. One of its great merits is that its focus is on only one place, where the actual story did happen. In a cinematographic style that could be compared to the work of Claude Lanzmann, and without sentimental provocations, the film makers present us a creation that grows and develops as it progresses... - Haaretz, Israel
“Out of the Forest” is a quiet and sad film that presents, in the clearest way possible, the perspectives of different nationalities regarding events that we should never forget”. - Lietuvaos Rito, Lithuania press
“The murderers are always the others, that is the sad and painful conclusion of this beautiful and emotional film”. - Berlin Morgenpresse
“Not an historical document, but a psychological one, which expresses the uncanny ability of man, to repress his part in exploitation, and his indifference to other human beings”. - Frankfurter Allgemaine
AWARDS, FESTIVALS & SCREENINGS
• Berlin Film Festival
• Human Rights Film Festival, Amsterdam
• Vilnius International Film Festival
• Chicago International Film Festival
• London International Film Festival
• Sao Paulo International Film Festival
• Bangkok International Film Festival
• Toronto Jewish Film Society