According to Ofra Bloch, the Jerusalem-born, New York-based psychoanalyst who wrote, directed and stars in the compelling, thought-provoking documentary “Afterward,” there’s a belief that trauma can be passed down between generations and even manifest in our DNA. That is, we can be haunted by events that happened before we were born.
It’s a fascinating theory that Bloch unpacks via frank interviews with several Germans, whose identities have been shaped by the horrific legacy of the Holocaust, as well as an array of Palestinians, who have lived in the shadow of the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”), in which more than 700,000 Palestinians became refugees due to the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.
Bloch affectingly injects her own emotional wounds into the narrative as she reveals how she was raised to hate Germans and Palestinians, and attempts to square those alarming feelings in chats with her interview subjects, which include activists, academics, artists, other psychoanalysts and a former neo-Nazi.
The filmmaker’s probing journey, which takes her to Berlin, Haifa, Jerusalem and elsewhere, presents few easy questions or answers. Some testimony here may rankle certain viewers, despite — or because of — Bloch’s attempt at evenhandedness. No matter, it’s a timely and essential portrait.
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Playing: Jan. 20-21, Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle Claremont 5