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
A heartbreaking look at Nazi inhumanity and manipulation
It was with great pleasure that I was able to attend a screening of Yael Hersonski's A Film Unfinished (2010) this past Sunday afternoon at the documentary film festival. However, this pleasure was followed up by immediate sadness, as this film is not exactly one to lift your spirits. This documentary exposes discovered footage of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 that was later found in a buried East German archive with a simple name attached, 'Ghetto'. The original implications of this lost footage are unclear as it captured the true disgust of the harsh, cramped living conditions, the unsanitary environment, and the famished people within it, while ambiguously presenting staged scenes of Jewish people enjoying a 'comfortable' life in the ghettodining in restaurants, wearing clean clothes and fine jewelry, enjoying the privacy of their spacious living facilities, sanitary circumcisions, and proper funerals. It almost seemed as if the Nazi filmmaker's original intent was to present a sort of social or cultural dichotomy within the ghetto. Perhaps a piece of propaganda meant to make people believe the ghettos were acceptable forms of alternative housinga kind of paradise, but the Jews were the ones who made them unsatisfactory. I found the images within this film to be absolutely haunting. The piercing eyes of these victims as they break the fourth wall, and stare straight back at you will leave you with an unsettling feeling that will linger within you for hours, even after the film's end. Looking into the sorrowful eyes of these victims is a guaranteed way to make you feel extremely privileged. A Film Unfinished is a heartbreaking look at Nazi inhumanity and manipulation. It is a piece of evidence that will forever represent one of the most tragic events in history.
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