Joanna Rajkowska and Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman, Night Herons, Steirischer Herbst 2020
What if Rajka’s father had not made a pact with the swamp that protected him from Auschwitz? What if the doe he killed remembered the swamp? What if Robert’s great-grandmother left Poland by the forest that knew the doe? What if the rabbinic council of exiles in Amsterdam had not cursed Baruch de Spinoza? What if we can incite such memory to reverse the curse, the pact, the murder, the leaving? Night Herons tells the story of a hunt in the ever-shrinking forests of Kujawsko-Pomorskie in Poland. The film deploys marionettes in the actual forest environments as well as sets reconstructed from memory. Its protagonists—the corpses of hunted animals—journey through a series of situations, soundscapes, and recitations that mix historical invocations with the intimate family entanglements of both artists. In orchestrating the ancient Slavic singing form of “white voice” with traditional Ashkenazi healing methods, basic postmortem practices reserved for human bodies, and the curse and writings of Spinoza, the artists construct a risky hybrid, an interspecies rebellion, and radical lamentation against what they swear will kill us all.
Commissioned and produced by Steirischer Herbst Graz, Austria with the kind support of Polish Institute Vienna.
Night Herons, is available to watch on Paranoia TV, a digital platform of Steirischer Herbst, until the end of the year.
Please find the link here: Night Herons
The recording of the conversation between the artists (Joanna Rajkowska and Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman) and David Riff, one of the curators of the festival, is available to watch here