Chasing Portraits

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First time Bay Area filmmaker Elizabeth Rynecki takes us along on her quest to recover her Polish-Jewish great-grandfather Moshe Rynecki’s body of artwork. Most of it disappeared after he was deported to the Warsaw Ghetto and perished at the Majdanek concentration camp. His more than 800 paintings and sculptures provided artful and important documentation of everyday scenes of Jewish life in Poland before the war. Rynecki grew up with several of her great-grandfather’s paintings in her childhood home and later learned that her family was only able to save a small fraction of his work when they fled Poland. Before he was deported, he gave his art to friends and trusted them with their safekeeping until after the war.

With the help of historians, curators and collectors, Rynecki begins the emotional personal journey of recovering the collection that was dispersed all over the world. Rynecki’s father declines to join her, but is nonetheless supportive as she sets out to find the art. Her son asks whether she is scared to go to Poland. The cast of characters she encounters along the way shed light on the complexities of contemporary Polish perspectives on the past and the conflicting approaches to truth, reconciliation and healing in Poland’s relationship to the Jewish people. —Lexi Leban

Preceded by Habesha and Jerusalem If I Forget You

Director Elizabeth Rynecki in person in Palo Alto and East Bay

Elizabeth Rynecki is the great-granddaughter of Polish-Jewish artist, Moshe Rynecki (1881-1943). She grew up with her great-grandfather's paintings prominently displayed on the walls of her family home and understood from an early age that the art connected her to a legacy from "the old country": Poland. Elizabeth has a BA in Rhetoric from Bates College ('91) and an MA in Rhetoric and Communication from UC Davis ('94). Her Master's thesis focused on children of Holocaust survivors. Her book, also titled Chasing Portraits, was published by Penguin Random House in September 2016.  

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