Documentary – Argentina / US / UK Première
Without the pre-formulated narrative available to its fictional cousins, the documentary has a greater reliance on the director’s choices. By pointing his lens at his fractious, but loving, middle-class Jewish family, Gastón Solnicki had many paths available to him, but his decision to record everyone rather than narrow the focus to a single one or two figures spreads his story too thinly.
Only in the final twenty minutes does Solnicki decide to concentrate on his dapper, charming and occasionally irascible father Victor, who, in his role as pater familias, carries everyone’s burdens on his shoulders. This is partly due to his father’s early suicide and partly the émigré drive to succeed. It’s clear that Victor’s story is more interesting than that of his divorced daughter or sullen middle son, yet every time you feel Solnicki come close to revealing the man behind the bonhomie and charm, he pulls away to something more domestic and dull. The first voice you hear in the film is Solnicki’s grandmother talking about her flight from the Polish ghetto at the start of World War II, which sets up another route frustratingly cut short by the director’s lack of certainty. Papirosen exhibits the dangers of documentary filmmaking and shows how when faced with too much choice, it’s easy to take the road more travelled.
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