“Uncle Benno” is a 30 minute documentary short -- a hybrid of vérité road movie, historical storytelling and personal essay – that chronicles the search by Director George Lerner for family lost in the Holocaust. At the heart of George’s search is a monumental figure: Benjamin Falek, his grandfather’s brother, in Jasło, Poland.
Uncle Benno was a man of innumerable contradictions: alternately brusque and charming; a centenarian Jew who chose to live in Poland; a Polish army officer decorated for bravery, who abandoned his wife and child to the Nazi invasion; a father estranged from his children, who became the guardian of family history.
The film begins in 1994 with Uncle Benno lighting a candle at a memorial stone he put up in Jasło's Jewish cemetery. They go to the house where the family operated a tavern, and Benno starts a brawl with the current occupants. They walk into a nearby forest where the Nazis murdered hundreds of Jewish residents in 1942.
Decades later, George returns to Jasło: to the massacre site in the forest, and to the old Falek tavern, now in ruins. He attends a Polish memorial service to the Jewish community. But lingering over every step is a mystery: what actually happened to the relatives listed on Benno’s memorial stone. Step by step, name by name, George begins to track down the fate of his family murdered in the foothills of Southern Poland.o