Over the last decade, Gastón Solnicki shot over 180 hours of footage of his immediate family, beginning with the birth of his nephew Mateo, continuing on family vacations and holiday gatherings, and eventually conducting interviews with his grandmother, Pola.
Part of the home movie genre but superseding it, his trenchant portrait of four generations of the Solnicki clan exposes the ghosts haunting them every day; the director sculpted away at the footage to assemble, through slices of life, a universal portrait of family highly charged with symbolic meaning.
At the same time Solnicki’s film is an observational document (of a family, their conflicts, arguments and crises), a critique (of class, in particular, the Jewish nouveau riche of post-WWII Argentina), and a celebration (of love, family bonds, and the need to bear witness). An intimate exposé that acknowledges the discomfort implicit in the voyeuristic gaze, Papirosen illustrates the difficulties of escaping the trappings of history—in particular, the oppressive legacy of the Holocaust for its survivors (like Solnicki’s father, Victor, the film’s protagonist) and their relatives.
Solnicki’s camera is performing the same task as the photographers of the older 8mm footage he has seamlessly integrated from his family archive, marking Papirosen as an eloquent testimony on family and history; Solnicki places himself as the intellectual inheritor of a line of chroniclers, writing the latest chapter in a very old story.Mark Peranson