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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ida is a 2013 Polish film about a young orphan woman raised in a convent on the verge of becoming a nun before learning that she is Jewish. She undergoes a journey in search of her background, and where her parents, killed during the Holocaust, are buried. As such, it's an emotionally intense drama best for teens who have the maturity and historical perspective to understand not only what transpired during the Nazi occupation of Poland in the 1940s but also what life was like in Poland under Communist rule in the early 1960s. One of the lead characters frequently drinks and smokes; she drives around the Polish countryside drinking vodka straight from the bottle, culminating in a car accident after which she is arrested for drunk driving. There also is brief nudity (bare breasts) in the aftermath of two characters having sex. A character is shown jumping out of an apartment window to commit suicide, which is filmed from behind.
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What's the story?
During Poland in the early 1960s, Anna, a young orphan woman raised in a convent, is on the verge of becoming a nun. She meets Wanda, the aunt and only living relative who, until now, had never wanted to meet Anna. Anna learns a shocking truth: She is actually Jewish, and her real name is Ida. With Wanda -- who is now an alcoholic and cynical judge for Poland's Communist Party -- Ida undertakes a journey for the place where her parents are buried. This journey takes them to a small town, where they meet a handsome young saxophone player who plays jazz with other beatnik-youth, as well as non-Jewish farmers who vacillated between resistance to and complicity with the Nazi occupation as they also tried to survive it. This journey leaves Anna/Ida at a crossroads: Does she continue on the path of becoming a nun, or do her recent discoveries of her background and heritage lead her in a different direction?
Is it any good?
IDA is a beautiful, sad, and ultimately unforgettable Polish film. Its evocation of post-World War II, early 1960s Poland captures so much in a mere 80 minutes, from the bureaucratic blatherings of Communist officials, to rural Poles struggling with the vacillations between resistance and complicity they experienced during the Nazi occupation, to young beatnik musicians finding a sense of joy and freedom in playing "Naima" by John Coltrane. This film fearlessly explores themes of identity, the Holocaust and its survivors, spirituality, ideology, and survival in the aftermath of deep personal and historical tragedy. The choice to film Ida in stark and vivid black and white heightens and underscores the burden of history on these characters, and the acting, across the board, is nothing short of brilliant.
There's so much beauty, despair, and even traces of humor in the journey undertaken in search of where Ida's parents -- who were killed during the Holocaust -- are buried. As Ida begins to experience the secular world, and Wanda continues to descend into cynicism and dissipation through alcohol and her career as a judge for the Communist Party, there is so much profundity of time and place, of the personal and political, of a search for meaning. Ida deserves a place among the very best movies ever made about the Holocaust and its survivors.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about films in which the Holocaust is a major theme. Although the film is set nearly 20 years after World War II, how does the Holocaust haunt these characters?
Why do you think the filmmakers chose to make this movie in black and white? What effect does this decision have on the overall story?
How are the realities of daily life in early 1960s Poland conveyed in the movie?
How can you learn more about the Holocaust?
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