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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Review - A Grain of Truth

Director: Alexander Mindadze - Poland

Teodor Szacki (Robert Wieckiewicz) is a big shot investigator who is starting his life anew in the provincial Polish town of Sandomierz. When the body of a young Polish woman is found outside of the synagogue, he investigates only to discover that there are more bodies to be found. Utilizing the help of a local prosecutor and an aging policeman, all signs point to the murders being connected to alleged historical Jewish ritual killings. Szacki rushes to find the culprit before the town descends into anti-Semitic hysteria.

What is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of A Grain of Truth is the plot point of Blood Libel, the belief that the Jews used Christians for sacrifices in their religious rituals. There is a scene in the film which utilizes a painting depicting blood libel which is in the local cathedral. Apparently, this painting actually exists and in 2008 a team of anthropologists and sociologists did a study about the blood libel myth in Sandomierz and discovered that belief in it persists today among Catholics and Orthodox Christians of all social classes. No doubt the screenwriter read this study and it inspired the film. For in a town where such thinking is still common, it would not take much to bring them to anti-Semitic hysteria.

While the underlying concept of the film is fascinating, unfortunately it is not so deftly handled. In many ways A Grain of Truth feels like a TV murder drama. The murder happens, Szacki shows up and things charge on ahead with little time for exposition about the character or the town. It seems like the filmmakers decided that the audience should already know these things, and maybe for Polish viewers it would be clearer, but for those without any concept of Polish towns it is jarring. While the speed of the story manages to help with the cultural differences, the characters never really get a chance to grow and so they remain clich├ęd. Szacki never becomes anything more than a gruff detective really. And it is even more apparent with the female characters who just feel like sexual objects throughout most of the film. While A Grain of Truth has its interesting moments and is certainly an eye-opening view at the continuing anti-Semitism that permeates Poland, it overall feels too amateurish. Perhaps with some editing it would be better served shown on television instead in the cinemas. (Rose F.)

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