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A Grain of Truth
by Rose Finlay

Director: Alexander Mindadze - Poland

Teodor Szacki (Robert Wieckiewicz) is a big shot  investigator who is starting his life anew in the provincial Polish town of  Sandomierz. When the body of a young Polish woman is found outside of the  synagogue, he investigates only to discover that there are more bodies to be  found. Utilizing the help of a local prosecutor and an aging policeman, all  signs point to the murders being connected to alleged historical Jewish ritual  killings. Szacki rushes to find the culprit before the town descends into  anti-Semitic hysteria.

What is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of A Grain  of Truth is the plot point of Blood Libel, the belief that the Jews used  Christians for sacrifices in their religious rituals. There is a scene in the  film which utilizes a painting depicting blood libel which is in the local  cathedral. Apparently, this painting actually exists and in 2008 a team of  anthropologists and sociologists did a study about the blood libel myth in  Sandomierz and discovered that belief in it persists today among Catholics and  Orthodox Christians of all social classes. No doubt the screenwriter read this  study and it inspired the film. For in a town where such thinking is still  common, it would not take much to bring them to anti-Semitic hysteria.

While the underlying concept of the film is  fascinating, unfortunately it is not so deftly handled. In many ways A Grain of Truth feels like a TV murder  drama. The murder happens, Szacki shows up and things charge on ahead with  little time for exposition about the character or the town. It seems like the  filmmakers decided that the audience should already know these things, and  maybe for Polish viewers it would be clearer, but for those without any concept  of Polish towns it is jarring. While the speed of the story manages to help  with the cultural differences, the characters never really get a chance to grow  and so they remain clichéd. Szacki never becomes anything more than a gruff  detective really. And it is even more apparent with the female characters who  just feel like sexual objects throughout most of the film. While A Grain of Truth has its interesting  moments and is certainly an eye-opening view at the continuing anti-Semitism  that permeates Poland, it overall feels too amateurish. Perhaps with some  editing it would be better served shown on television instead in the cinemas.