No. 4 Street of Our Lady, a film by Penn State Professor Barbara Bird, Senior Lecturer Judy Maltz, and Assistant Professor Richie Sherman, is a story of Francisca Halamajowa, a woman who posed as a Nazi sympathizer in order to shelter sixteen Jews for nearly two years on her property in Sokal, Poland.
Halamajowa’s story unfolds through the eyes of three of the children she saved and two of her granddaughters as they make the trip to Sokal – now in Ukraine – to visit Halamajowa’s house for the first time since they left in 1944. The details of their stay during the war are presented through the diary of Moshe Maltz, the grandfather of filmmaker Judy Maltz.
It is impossible not to be moved by this story. Whether it’s the old footage from the German occupation, or the moment when one of the women visits the brick factory where her father was killed by the Nazis over 60 years before, it is a beautiful piece that tells a story of lost childhoods, courage in the face of death, and the importance of family.
From a technical standpoint, the film was beautiful. Sherman’s camera work mixed with the choices in music pulled me into the story and kept me engaged in the world these people were revisiting. My only qualm with the entire movie was that the subtitles were too small and I sometimes found myself not reading, but instead focusing on the visuals or, even worse, focusing on trying to read and then missing the visuals altogether. But do not let that deter you from giving this film a chance, this is a wonderful story of hope that will not leave you looking for a comedy to watch afterward to brighten your mood.
Trust me, I’m a Half-Polish Jew and I’ve seen more than my fair share of Holocaust films: This is one to watch. Check it out tonight on WPSU at 9PM.
Full disclosure: Barbara Bird, the director, teaches my documentary filmmaking class and Richie Sherman, the cinematographer, is my major adviser.