Forgiveness (2008 film)

Forgiveness , also known as Esther's Diary, is a 2008 American dramatic Holocaust film written and directed by Polish-American director Mariusz Kotowski, with a screenplay by Allan Knee.[1] The film is marked as being the director's first feature-length film.[2]

Film poster as Esther's Diary
Directed byMariusz Kotowski
Produced byGilda Longoria
Mariusz Kotowski
Screenplay byAllan Knee
Story byMariusz Kotowski
Music byFederico Chavez-Blanc
CinematographyJames Rodriguez
Edited byBrian O'Neill
Bright Shining City Productions
Release date
  • April 26, 2008 (2008-04-26)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited States


A Roman Catholic child Apollonia Kowalski and a Jewish child Esther Blumenfeld, were childhood best friends in 1940's Poland. The two girls were separated when Esther was taken away to a Nazi concentration camp. When the war ended, both girls separately emigrated to the United States with their families. They remained separated thereafter.

Years later, Apollonia's daughter, Maria Patterson (Shelley Calene-Black), and Esther's daughter, Sarah Blumenfeld (Sydney Barrosse), have become successful professional women, but each still deals with the memories of the Holocaust via strained relationships with their respective mothers. Esther dies but has left a memoir of her experiences in the camp with her daughter, Sarah. Apollonia (Juli Erickson) is confined to a nursing home and, though Maria tries her best to care or her, she and her mother are at constant odds. A secret that Apollonia has been hiding comes to light, and the uncovering of this secret causes Apollonia and Maria to resolve their differences and brings Maria and Sarah into each other's lives.

Partial cast

  • Shelley Calene-Black as Maria Patterson
  • Juli Erickson as Apollonia Kowalski
  • Sydney Barrosse as Sarah Blumenfeld
  • Jamie Goodwin as Jeff Patterson, Maria's husband
  • Wilbur Penn as Clayton, Maria's co-worker
  • Dell Aldrich as Esther (voice)
  • Christina Childress as Jennifer
  • Jon Davis as Roger (voice)
  • Greg Dorchak as Pete
  • Chris Doubeck as Paul
  • Sean Elliot as Matthew
  • Krystal Morton as Young Esther
  • Kathryn Olsen as Young Apollonia
  • Steve Uzzell as Dean Denson
  • Cyndi Williams as Lisa (voice)


The film's story is told through a series of narratives from a fictional memoir of the period, illustrated with archival footage provided by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim, Poland, additional archive material from the Jewish Historical Institute, and photographs of the concentration camp ruins by Michael Kenna. Some of the film's archival footage comes from the same sources used in the French short film Night And Fog.[3]

Forgiveness was shot on location in Austin, Texas in August 2007, with the director having to deal with seasonal rains and the illness of one of the lead actresses.[4]


The film premiered at the Ninth Annual Polish Film Festival of Los Angeles, California on April 26, 2008.[5] After screening at film festivals through 2008 and 2009, including the Los Angeles Film Festival and West Hollywood International Film Festival,[6] Kotowski re-edited the film to feature a more central emphasis on the film's Holocaust story.[3] The film was then re-titled Esther's Diary and re-released, having its premiere at the New Hope Film Festival on June 26, 2010,[7] and screenings at festivals such as River Bend Film Festival in South Bend, Indiana.[8] Director Mariusz Kotowski's production company Bright Shining City Productions released Esther's Diary on DVD in September 2010; the film is currently being sold direct via Bright Shining City Productions' official website.


As Forgiveness

  • Third Place Jury Award - Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival (2008)[9]
  • Telly Awards - Silver (2008)[10]
  • Silver Remi Award - WorldFest (2009)[11]
  • EMPixx Awards - Platinum (2009)[12]

As Esther's Diary

  • Best Narrative Feature - Great Lakes International Film Festival (2010)
  • Relix Award - Glen Rose Neo-Relix Film Festival (2010)
  • EMPixx Award - Platinum (2010)
  • The Indie Fest - Award of Merit (2010) [13]
  • Telly Awards - Bronze (2010)[10]


Jerusalem Post wrote "Forgiveness is like a complex jigsaw puzzle or murder mystery in which apparently disconnected pieces fall into place only gradually. For those looking for a movie dominated by strong, independent women, this is the one to see."[14]

Jewish Journal contrasted the film against others at the Polish Film Festival by noting that, even though directed and written by a Polish filmmaker and reflecting the memories of wartime Poland, it was filmed with an American cast and set in a contemporary American city. It was offered that the film had a compelling plot line, but its strength was in how it dealt with the relationships of its female characters. They summarize, "A bond between two adult, self-confident women has rarely been portrayed as effectively."[5]

See also


  1. "Forgiveness". Polish Film Festival. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  2. "Mariusz Kotowski bio". Polish Film Festival. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  3. Gasten, David. "review, Esther's Diary". Polanegri. Archived from the original on 2 August 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  4. O'Connell, Joe (August 10, 2007). "Kotowski seeks 'Forgiveness' in Austin". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  5. "Polish drama explores Jewish-Catholic relations". Jewish Journal". April 24, 2008.
  6. "Forgiveness at 2008 West Hollywood International Film Festival". West Hollywood International Film Festival. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  7. "Esther's Diary at New Hope Film festival". New Hope Film festival. Archived from the original on 2011-04-18. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  8. "Esther's Diary at the 2010 River Bend Film Festival". River Bend Film Festival. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  9. "Forgiveness at the 2008 Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival". Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  10. "29th Annual Telly Awards". Telly Awards. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  11. "WorldFest Winners' Lists 1979-2010". WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival. Archived from the original on 25 February 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  12. "2009 Empixx Award Winners". EMPixx Awards. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  13. "May 2010 Deadline Award of Merit Winners". The Indie virtual film festial. Archived from the original on 20 April 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  14. "LA's Polish Film Festival reveals Jewish themes". Jerusalem Post. April 30, 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
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