A film by Lukasz Konopa
War & Conflict, Poland/United Kingdom (2012) | 7 mins
Words by Surya Matondkar
After shines a light on the invisible strings that hold some of the world’s most sought-after tourist attractions in place. While this “light” is strictly observational, one cannot help but realise just how indifferently we have come to treat some of history’s most terrible lessons. Shot completely at Auschwitz, the film observes silently, taking in everything from the very first cleaning of the floors to the disposal of garbage cans at the end of the day. It watches as buses filled with tourists arrive with their Facebook updates held at the ready. There are scenes of happy tourists – young teenagers with sun-kissed hair, families laughing as they try to gather themselves together to take a good photo – all on the well-maintained lawn that has risen from the very bones of the people murdered there. There are no interviews here, no subtle pokes that make the story seem more heart-wrenching. There is nothing but the blatant presentation of what already exists.
From a human rights point of view, the film forces us to ask ourselves a very important question: can we blame them for their insensitivity? And if we can, who do we blame? Do we blame the people who empty garbage cans, and clean carpets for not flinching while they do their jobs? Do we blame the people who wipe down the displays so that the thousands of abandoned shoes that rest there may have the chance to tell their story? Do we blame those that clean those shoes, even make a repair or two so that they may continue to survive, to carry their message? Do we blame social media which has turned attending a “tourist attraction” into a prestige issue? Or do we blame ourselves? We, who have so determinedly distanced ourselves from the horrors in our past, all in a bid to pretend that they cannot occur in our present.