Borderland Memories merges historical images with new recordings, following filmmaker Edie Steiner’s quest to locate her father’s former home in Lower Silesia. Her ancestors were among millions of ethnic Germans expelled from Silesia when it was annexed to Poland after WW2. As a young man, Edie’s father immigrated to rural northern Canada and never returned to Silesia.
The filmmaker explores her loss of intergenerational cultural belonging as a German immigrant child, a post-Holocaust identity implicated in the crimes of the nation she was born into. Over several journeys to Silesia she traces her Jewish ancestral line at national archives in Poland, visits the village of her ancestors, and interviews scholars and community members, engaging in discourses of migration, borders, witnessing, and kinship.
Moving between still photography, archival sources, family documents, original artwork, text, and a variety of digital and analogue sources, the film unfolds in a tapestry of intersecting voices and images of natural landscapes and built environments: post-Communist villages set in pastoral landscapes, the cities of Berlin and Wroclaw, and images of the Oder-Neisse Rivers forming the German/Polish border as both a dividing and uniting boundary.
The project was commencing post-production in early 2020 as the pandemic began, and all collaborative picture and sound editing, music composition, design and artwork were produced working remotely. Funding for the project’s research and post-production stages was provided by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Edie Steiner Director and Cinematographer
Ian Pearson Editor
Joshua Hemming Sound Design
Chip Yarwood Original Music
Michaela Pohl Original Artwork
Mary Traill Graphic Design
Speakers in the film
Dr. Agata Stanisz: Anthropologist of Sound, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan ; Dr. Łukasz Kaczmarek, Cultural Anthropologist, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan; Dr. Michaela Pohl: Historian, Artist, New York State; John Paul Kleiner, Researcher in East German History, Toronto; Michal Mlynarz, Historian, Toronto and Poland; Malgorzata Murao, Institut für angewandte Geschichte, Frankfurt-Oder/Slubice; Alicja Zaremba, Cultural Anthropology Scholar, Wroclaw; Piotr Zadworny, Jewish Studies Scholar, Wroclaw; Bozena Ludke, Resident, Ludwikowice; Dr. Harald Bauder, Migration & Human Geography Studies, Toronto; Dr. Heather MacRae, European Union Studies, Toronto; Lottie Steiner, Toronto.
My work explores meanings of kinship and memory, complicated by personal intergenerational and historical narratives, at times exposing family connections to larger social histories and contexts. I usually begin my explorations by recording images in sites particular to the themes I am exploring and as I immerse myself in witnessing the locations of my inquiry, stories arrive from the places where I record my impressions and from persons I meet in these locations. The interviews and visual recordings for the film Borderland Memories, including archival sources, were gathered between 2015 and early 2020. The Canada Council for the Arts funded the initial research in 2018 and later the final post-production stage of the project in March, 2020, just as the Covid19 lockdowns began. All picture and sound editing, music composition, graphics and artwork were performed working at distance with the creative post-production team.