The Painted Bird

2019 | Drama | Czech, Russian, German with English subtitles | 169 minutes


In war-torn Eastern Europe during World War II, a Jewish family, anxious that their boy be safe, sends him to live with his aunt on a remote farm. Soon after his arrival, his aunt dies, and the boy sets off on a horrific journey to find his way back home.  The unnamed boy encounters evil, hate, exploitations, and depravity  as he  journeys throughout the country. The few people he encounters who are kind and  compassionate, soon disappear. The passing Red Army sends the boy to an orphanage where he is a loner and tries to escape. The boy is beaten by an anti-Semitic shopkeeper. The boy, now hardened and bitter by his experiences, kills the shopkeeper. One day, Nikodém,  the boy’s father,  locates him  at the orphanage and tearfully greets him. On the bus ride back home, Nikodém tries to explain to his son why he was sent to live with his aunt. The boy remains angry and unforgiving–that is, until he notices a number tattooed on his father’s arm. With his finger, the boy writes his name on the bus window, “Joska.”  

Petr Kotllar (the boy) / Harvey Keitel (The Priest) / Stellan Skarsgard (Hans) / Petr Vanek (Nikodém)
Why Stream This Film?
The film is a masterpiece even though some viewers may find the occasional brutality hard to watch. It’s a searing window into the soul of a boy who endures some of the worst trauma imaginable. Viewers will see the horrors of World War II Europe through the eyes of the most vulnerable and innocent.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 80%
  • Metacritic Score: 72
  • Chicago International Film Festival: Winner, Best Cinematography
  • Venice International Film Festival: UNICEF Award
  • Miami Jewish Film Festival: Winner, The Critics Prize 
I must admit that staying with the film required steady purpose, but the experience, far from being numbing, was spellbinding. By the end there was no distance between me and the boy. I could see him thinking.
Joe Morgenstern

The Wall Street Journal

I can state without hesitation that this is a monumental piece of work and one I’m deeply glad to have seen. THE PAINTED BIRD plumbs the depths, but rest assured that those hardy souls who stay the course will be rewarded.
Xan Brooks

The Guardian

All of this unvarnished evil is depicted with haunting beauty and uncompromising artistry.
Oliver Jones

The Observer

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