Malcolm Rigsby Reviews The Kalusz I Thought I Knew

The Kalusz I Thought I Knew

Distributed by Ruth Diskin Films Ltd., P.O.Box 7153, Jerusalem, 91071, ISRAEL
Produced by Bernard Dichek
Directed by Bernard Dichek
VHS , color, 28 min.
Jr. High – General Adult
Human Rights, Activism, Jewish Holocaust, War

Reviewed by Malcolm L. Rigsby, Department of Sociology and Human Services, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended

Date Entered: 5/22/2014

This film reminds me of the book My Father’s Paradise (2008), by Ariel Sabar. In this book a son returns to his parents’ homeland seeking to establish a connection with a lost identity. As humans we all seek “belonging”. Part of this longing is connected with our identity to self and also our larger extended community. The documentary succinctly and directly tells the story of a young man who grows up in war torn Poland. During the war his entire family is lost, the ancestral home and all belongings are ravaged by war. After the war he marries and the couple move to Canada, never to discuss the homeland they left again.Refusing to speak with their son about their life in Poland leaves young Bernard at a loss about his past. Though he often speaks to his father about his desire to make a trip to their home town of Kalusz he remains obedient to his father and does not go. We get the sense that he has often regretted not pressuring his father to return to Kalusz on a trip. After his father and mother’s death Bernard travels to Kalusz, now part of the Ukraine. Everything has changed; names, people, and streets.

There he meets up with Tanya, a Jewish English teacher in the town. She too is interested in her Jewish heritage and the Jewish history of Kalusz. When all seems to be bitterly ending with no success ironically a sweetness is found. Deep in the bowels of a 500 year old beer brewery, the same one that was in operation in the days his father lived in Kalusz, is a secret. As the Rabbi says “no one brewed beer like the Jews of Kalusz”! In the midst of despair Bernard is offered a mug of the Kalusz beer. It strikes him; Molson’s Export Ale! It tastes just like Molson’s Export Ale, the only kind his father would ever drink. Now he understood why his father never returned. All was gone. The only thing that lasted was the beer in this ancient brewery and that could be found in Canada. Sometimes we must simply realize that things pass by and we must be content to start over and be who we are. It seems that Bernard realized this at last and in so doing came to peace with his identity and his belonging. As Bernard says at one point in the film; “I came to find the Kalusz I knew, but all was gone”.

This is a deeply philosophical film. It is well shot with excellent production and post-production editing. The film poses for us all a question about how we seek to be identified and how that identity will interplay with others about us and within the memories of those that survive us.

Distributor sponsored Trailer via YouTube.