A film about an unfinished film which portrays the people behind and before the camera in the Warsaw Ghetto, exposing the extent of the cinematic manipulation forever changing the way we look at historic images.
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Yael Hersonski's powerful documentary achieves a remarkable feat through its penetrating look at another film-the now-infamous Nazi-produced film about the Warsaw Ghetto. Discovered after the war, the unfinished work, with no soundtrack, quickly became a resource for historians seeking an authentic record, despite its elaborate propagandistic construction. The later discovery of a long-missing reel complicated earlier readings, showing the manipulations of camera crews in these "everyday" scenes. Well-heeled Jews attending elegant dinners and theatricals (while callously stepping over the dead bodies of compatriots) now appeared as unwilling, but complicit, actors, alternately fearful and in denial of their looming fate. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
Title is appropriate: this footage is in search of a thesis
In publicity for this movie much is made of a truth to be revealed by footage in a newly discovered spool of film, however revelations to be had from the find seem profoundly limited to a single point: in a Nazi film of life in the Warsaw ghetto the scenes are staged.
Footage of walking cadavers is certainly powerful, and emotional recollections of survivors is moving, but, heartless though it may sound, there is nothing new presented here. The only thesis articulated is really pretty uninteresting, and possible ancillary themes are never developed: Rüdiger Vogler reads the testimony of cameraman Willy Wist, who says what he witnessed in the ghetto haunted him long afterward, even despite some of the things he saw later. The narrators might have asked what Wist was referring to. What is the context into which Wist fits his memories of the ghetto? We're shown the Nazis repeatedly staged shots to stress contrasts between wealthy, well-fed Jews in the ghetto and the majority who were starving, but there is no exploration of the reality a narrator simply recollects that a few dozen people were able to remain well fed.
Rather than a coherent whole this is an hour and a half of staged footage of the May 1942 Warsaw ghetto interspersed with survivor commentary. The holocaust canon has more rewarding works.
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