Here’s a quick summary of the film…
• Prisoners of her Past is a film that shows
Howard Reich trying to find out what exactly
happened to his mother, Sonia Reich, who is a
survivor by running away and hiding during
• Now, she currently suffers from Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder. She is convinced that everyone is out to get
her; her mindset is stuck in her past, although is aware
of her surroundings and knows who people are in the
• She lives in constant fear of the Nazi’s killing her and
she doesn’t trust anybody. This is what Reich
investigates because she never talked about her
experiences when he was growing up.
Central Message of the Film.
• Traumatizing experiences can cause disorders like PTSD to
occur, but this can be prevented.
– Since she was alone during her hiding and escape during the
Holocaust, she was alone in dealing with her experience, so
therefore she didn’t talk about it.
– Howard Reich and Leon
– Leon, her cousin, on the other hand, does not suffer from PTSD,
although he went through a similar experience by running away
and hiding during the Holocaust.
• Also, towards the end, it shows young
survivors of Hurricane Katrina listening to
Sonia’s story and then opening up about their
– Reich tries to convince the young survivors that
the only way you will be able to heal from the
trauma is to open up, talk about it, and talk about
it made them feel.
• The difference between Leon and Sonia is that
Leon opened up and talked about his experiences,
and by talking about them, he was learning to
cope with them, leaving him much less likely to
• Sonia kept all her emotions and experiences
inside and never dealt with it and this is the likely
cause of her disorder she has today.
Effectiveness of Film
• It tells Leon’s story of how he dealt with it and it shows
his personality and how he acts today.
– This is contrasted well with Sonia’s behavior because when
Leon comes to visit her, he is trying to help her remember
her experience so that they can talk together, but she
rejects him, because she is blocking out any connection to
the past, although she is stuck in it.
Leon feels rejected
when Sonai does
not recognize him
• To have the audience hear Sonia’s, Leon’s, and
other survivors’ stories, and recognize the
contrast between them.
– He wanted the audience to see the different ways
people deal with their trauma and where they are
once they get older.
• The filmmaker wants the audience to realize that
this is relevant to today.
– He urges people, if they have had traumatic
experiences, to get help and talk it through, so they
don’t end up with a sickness like Sonia.
Sources of Film
• Doctor’s diagnosis
• Sonia’s behavior
• Leon’s story of his experiences
• Various people in Ukraine that help us
visualize what really happened during the
“What is the role of the individual in
the modern world?”
• He not only tells his mother’s story
– He is helping people today deal with their trauma
by having them realize they have to talk about it if
they want to get over it.
• He is using the best possible medium
– a film, which can reach people all over the world
“How have human choices had a local
and global impact?”
• The film shows how the Holocaust impacted
the European countries, the Jews, and many
other people that were discriminated.
A Ukrainian woman
tells a story about
the horrors that occurred
right down the road
• Did Sonia see the movie? If she did, what was her reaction?
• What are the circumstances of her illness? Is she stuck in
the past, or is she just having those emotions come back
and affect her because she knows the people around her?
Sonia walking with her granddaughter
• How has growing up with
Sonia’s behavior affected
• What inspired Howard to
create a film, not just a
Think about this…
• Prisoners of her Past was much more than a
movie showing a woman suffering from PTSD
– It’s a message to the people and anyone who has
gone through a traumatic experience that although
what a person went through is awful, they can come
back from it if they do the right things like open up
– This is what Reich shows the Hurricane Katrina
survivors to do.
– It can be applied to any traumatic experience, from
death of a family member, to abuse, to a drug
problem, to losing your job or home.
Young people, and old need to deal with their
problems so that they can go on with their life,
without this trauma holding them back. This is
what prevents a person from becoming a
prisoner of their past…
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