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A Film Unfinished (2010)

Shtikat Haarchion (original title)
Unrated | | Documentary, Drama, History | 2010 (Israel)
2:10 | Trailer
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.


Yael Hersonski


Yael Hersonski
5 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview:
Hanna Avrutzki Hanna Avrutzki ... Herself - Witness
Luba Gewisser Luba Gewisser ... Herself - Witness
Jurek Plonski Jurek Plonski ... Himself - Witness (as Jurek 'David' Plonski)
Aliza Vitis-Shomron Aliza Vitis-Shomron ... Herself - Witness
Shula Zeder Shula Zeder ... Herself - Witness
Janusz Hamerszmit Janusz Hamerszmit ... Adam Czerniakow (voice)
Eliezer Niborski Eliezer Niborski ... Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum (voice)
Alexander Senderovich ... Chaim Kaplan / Ben Shem (voice)
Mendy Cahan Mendy Cahan ... Abraham Lewin / Hersh Waser (voice)
Chava Alberstein ... Rachel Auerbach (voice) (as Hava Alberstein)
Gera Sandler ... Jonas Turkow (voice)
Axel Thielmann Axel Thielmann ... Auerswald (voice)
Rona Kenan ... Narrator (voice)
Rüdiger Vogler ... Willy Wist
Alexander Beyer ... Interrogator


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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In 1942 The Nazi Propaganda Machine Was Hard at Work. 70 Years Later, The Deceit is Finally Unmasked


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Germany | Israel


German | Hebrew | Yiddish | Polish | English

Release Date:

2010 (Israel) See more »

Also Known As:

A Film Unfinished See more »

Filming Locations:

Warsaw, Mazowieckie, Poland


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$34,060, 22 August 2010

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



Color | Black and White (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The black & white footage was shot during May 1942. See more »


Features Warsaw Ghetto (1942) See more »

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User Reviews

Ask how the government can deceive the people
30 November 2015 | by StevePulaskiSee all my reviews

The fact that the Nazi/Third Reich regime, in conjunction with its rise to power in the 1930's Germany, instilled a massive propaganda machine to inflate the popularity and perpetuate the alleged good of its policies is nothing new, but the far-reaching abilities of such a machine are still being studied today. We're told in the opening minutes of Yael Hersonski's documentary A Film Unfinished that a concrete vault was discovered to have housed over 1,000 reels of propaganda footage. This particular documentary chooses to focus on one mysterious and overlooked piece known only by the name on the tape of its reel: "The Ghetto."

The piece is an hour-long showcase of life in Warsaw, the largest Jewish ghetto in occupied Poland at the time. It was a cramped, walled-in location that spanned less than three square miles of territory with serious food stability and housed many deported Jews from the Reich. It has no audio, the celluloid is heavily damaged and corroded, as most poorly stored celluloid from the time is, and the scenes in the film are heavily staged bits that showcase Jews enjoying life in the ghetto.

Largely hidden in the film and only seeping through some seriously heart-wrenching moments are the realities of the Warsaw Ghetto: unforgivably dirty conditions, overcrowded streets and homes that would make a viewing of this documentary in an atrium feel claustrophobic, and the frail subjects, some barely supporting the clothes on their backs through what is basically thin flesh and weak bones. While "The Ghetto" isn't shown in its entirety in A Film Unfinished, Hersonski and company look to add context to the time period by way of narration from an appointed Warsaw judge during the time period, as well as people who actually lived and experienced the conditions in Warsaw.

But perhaps the most interesting interviews and testimonies in the entire film come from a man named Willy Wist, one of "The Ghetto"'s camera operators. We're told that a German crew would frequently come into Warsaw and actively monopolize and stage certain areas in order to "portray" life in the ghetto the way they wanted to; it was unnatural and incredibly forced, as most propaganda of the time was. Wist gives his opinions decades later on being one of the cameraman for such a project, in the midst of profiling the horrors that went when the cameras were off before they were turned on to capture the events inside an isolated community of outcasts.

"The Ghetto" is greatly reminiscent of a 1945 short film by the name of Topaz, which was smuggled out of the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah during World War II. That film profiled the families and daily activities of Japanese people inside an internment camp, and, according to the film's director, was largely predicated upon false responses and facial expressions from those inside the camp who were said to be miserable and beaten by the poor conditions. The existence of a film like "The Ghetto" exposes three levels of sickness in the treatment of Jews during World War II: the first is the active isolation, condemnation, and genocide of an entire group of people, the second is the act of exploiting the unfathomable suffering of the very same group of people by way of fabricated documentation, and the third is the appalling manipulation of such footage, which spins undernourishment, disease, and horribly inhumane living conditions, into positive attributes of a lawless and unjustifiable prison.

Townspeople throwing garbage outside of their windows is a normal occurrence in Warsaw, in addition to apathy due to pervasive hunger and lack of food of any kind. The coffin-sealing nail of complete and utter disgust for me, personally, was to see a mountain - about as large as one of those impenetrable and ever-present snow-mounds in the center of a strip mall parking lot - of feces and human waste. Such horrors of Warsaw are shown in grave detail, and as disgusting as it was to experience, much less witness, it serves a fitting analogy for the conditions and overall quality of life in Warsaw.

A Film Unfinished, as a documentary, would've probably done better to spend about thirty minutes giving us background into the discovery of the film, in addition to interviews with Wist and those who suffered in Warsaw, before actually showing the entirety of "The Ghetto." There are films like Dark Blood and Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, previously lost or unfinished works that recognize that fact by way of narration and exposition before actually giving us the promised product. The fact that Hersonski and company elaborate so much on "The Ghetto" in the first twenty minutes, but only proceed to show us maybe thirty to forty minutes of the project coupled with either narration or interjected interviews to distract from the events of the film, is pretty disappointing.

A Film Unfinished does a nice job at attempting to be an all-encompassing piece devoted to profiling and really detailing the motivations behind this curious oddity of a contemptible time period in world history. I find it incredibly interesting that, even eight decades later, more information about World War II than ever, such as the art and sculptures the Nazis robbed from Jewish museums, the propaganda machine, and the living conditions in both internment camps and Germany itself, is trickling out to the public. A Film Unfinished is a necessary, if bleak, look into how sick - but pervasive and vital - Third Reich cinema was during the time, much less the actions of the Nazis themselves.

Directed by: Yael Hersonski.

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