new fascinating documentary premiering tomorrow at the New York Jewish Film Festival, anyway. The Prince and the Dybbuk tells the tale of the director Michał Waszyński, who began his career in Poland making silent films in the 1920s (and who directed the seminal Jewish classic The Dybbuk in 1937) but whose life and legend wound through some surprising and unexpected places through the War and over the next several decades. The Prince and the Dybbuk takes upon itself the question of how can you untangle a person who spent his life covering up his tracks, purposefully shifting the sand behind him? What is left?
Michał Waszyński was a man of many secrets - the man who takes us to the former film-set, now forest, turns out to have been an extra on the movie and he has his own stories and remembrances about Waszyński taking a particularly keen interest in the dressing rooms of the young actors playing Roman Soldiers, for instance. But Waszyński was also married to a much older Italian Countess, he also directed anti-Nazi propaganda during the war, and what of the photographs of him and a mysterious woman in his youth?
So he was probably homosexual, or something like it - one person interviewed actually remembers him living openly so. But what records remain of such things now? You'd be hard-pressed to find them - even the people in the know would never have spoken aloud such secrets, so if discretion was appreciated. How much of gay history is lost this way? An unspoken history of romance, love, whatever, slipping away like that grand film-set, a patchily wooded nothing left in a grand something's one-time wake.
The New York Jewish Film Festival opens tomorrow at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and runs through January 23rd -- you can check out their entire line-up right here. It's chockfull of fascinating stories just like this one! Go see something!