Half the Town: Report

“Half the Town” (“Połowa miasteczka”)

On 12 December 2016, the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies (IPJS) held the UK Premiere screening of “Half the Town” (“Połowa miasteczka”) in the Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley. This is a documentary about the life and work of Chaim Berman, a photographer born in 1890 in the Polish town of Kozienice. Writer and director Pawel Siczek recreated the turn-of-the-20th-century period leading up to and including the Holocaust by using animation together with Berman’s photographic portraits of the townspeople of Kozienice – developed from his recently discovered glass negatives. Alongside were interspersed photos of contemporary Kozienice and interviews with townspeople and family who remembered the events of the time. The result was a beautiful and sensitive portrait of Berman, his time and place.

The evening began with a short introduction about the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies by Susan Storring. The audience heard about its history and achievements in academic research and education; its promotion of civic society in post-Soviet Central and Eastern Europe; and the Institute’s recent public events. The film was followed by a Q&A session with a panel of IPJS historians Dr. François Guesnet (University College London) and Professor Antony Polonsky (Brandeis) – experts on the history of Jews in Poland.

This was the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies’ second event in partnership with the Phoenix Cinema – the oldest cinema in continuous operation in the UK – following the June 2016 screening of director Simon Target’s documentary, “A Town called Brzostek”. Both events were well attended and enthusiastically received.

Both screenings benefitted from the assistance of the Polish Cultural Institute of London, and the UCL Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Susan Storring