"A brave work of personal discovery that explores a scandalously under-reported phenomenon... Prisoner of Her Past is a moving portrait of a son trying to understand his mother, and a reminder that the severity of a psychological scar is determined by the wound's initial treatment."
— Andrew Wander, Huffington Post
Prisoner of Her Past tells the haunting story of a secret childhood trauma resurfacing sixty years later to unravel the life of Holocaust survivor Sonia Reich. The film follows her son, Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich, as he journeys across the United States and Eastern Europe to uncover why his mother believes the world is conspiring to kill her. Exploring issues of aging, mental health, and trauma, Prisoner of Her Past tackles the often devastating effects of Late Onset Post Traumatic Disorder through one family's personal struggle to make peace with the past.
The film first premiered in 2010 at the Big Sky Film Festival and continues to be shown on PBS annually for Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah). It was also shown at the first ever Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland. Clips from the film were even used in the Lookingglass theater's 2011 acclaimed play The Last Act of Lilka Kadison, which examined memory and portrayed survivors' stories.
However, in spite of festival and broadcast successes, one of the film's most impactful arenas proved to be the classroom. Howard Reich has used the film to educate students about the Holocaust and mental health, and continues to be amazed by the deep connections and insights students have with the film.
"The insights of these young adults suggested that they could see elements of their own stories — their own lives — in Prisoner of Her Past," Reich writes. "Which is precisely why we made the film: to shed light on childhood trauma, past, present and future."
As a response to the film, students even created educational materials to help talk about these issues in the classroom, demonstrating a keen understanding of the film's relevance. Review their efforts here and here.
Prisoner of Her Past is available on DVD here.
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