The title Papirosen comes from a forgotten Russian song about a young orphan, a street vendor, pleading with passersby to purchase his cigarettes.
The memory of this plaintive melody, popular in the Jewish ghettos during World War II, brings tears to the eyes of aging patriarch Victor Solnicki years later in a Florida restaurant. A sense of the past pervades his son’s hypnotic family memoir, a home movie that tears apart the very notion of the genre as it moves from one vivid tableau to the next. Victor was an infant at the war’s end when his Jewish mother and father made their way from war-ravaged Eastern Europe to distant Argentina. Eventually he settled down and had three children. His youngest, Gastón, picked up a camera at an early age and captured his family’s sometimes humorous interactions and dysfunctions.
After the birth of his nephew Mateo in 2000, Gastón began sifting through the hundreds of hours of footage that editor Andrea Kleinman masterfully whittled down into this compelling chronicle. Most memorable is Solnicki’s striking camerawork which manages to achieve a startling intimacy that often seems closer to fiction than documentary.