Director Laura Bialis expected to attend

This breathtaking and exceptionally well-crafted documentary about Russian-Jewish photographer Roman Vishniac (1897–1990) captures his transformation from a free-spirited scientist in Berlin to one of the world’s greatest photographers. We see his early style of Russian pictorialism morph into more modern photography in Berlin. When Vishniac loses work because of being Jewish and is hired by the Joint Distribution Committee to document the shtetls of Eastern Europe, his images mature into a visceral chronicle of Eastern European Jews. Vishniac, a self-identified Western Jew, discovers a deep spirituality and essential Jewishness in his Eastern coreligionists. His shots of daily life in Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Lithuania brim with vitality. His book, A Vanished World is often compared to the work of documentary photographers Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. The film is superbly narrated by his daughter, Mara Kohn Vishniac, born in Berlin in 1926. Her clear-eyed view of her father adds to the complexity of a man who was a microbiologist, top-notch photographer and sometimes unreliable narrator of his own life story. She was his helper in the darkroom and his “alibi” for photographing Nazi propaganda with her posed innocently in front of it. Ultimately, she took responsibility for his legacy by preserving his oeuvre, a haunting eulogy to a world on the brink of destruction.

Co-sponsored by Taube Philanthropies and Diana Grand and Jon Holman


w/English Subtitle
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San Francisco Pass

$325 Members / $350 General Public

The San Francisco Pass offers complete access to all SFJFF43 screenings and events at the Castro Theatre and Vogue Theater from July 20–30, 2023. Includes admission to the Opening Night Party on July 20 at The Green Room.