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a powerful and moving indictment of a Nazi lie
gregking427 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
After the end of WWII, four reels of film were discovered inside a vault in the German mountains. The film had no titles or credits, and was simply labeled The Ghetto. The unfinished silent film was an attempt by the German propaganda machine to paint an idyllic picture of life within the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942, where some 440,000 Polish Jews were crowded into a three-mile area while they awaited deportation. Carefully stage-managed scenes showed Jewish families living a life of luxury. This was contrasted with scenes showing poorer Jewish families living in absolute squalor, in overcrowded and filthy slums. Emaciated bodies lay on the streets. Dead bodies were bulldozed into mass graves. The point behind it all seems to have been to show that the Jews were heartless and willing to turn on their own in order to survive.

In this fascinating documentary, former television editor Yael Hersonski exposes the lie behind the film, and exposes how film can be cynically manipulated for specific purposes to fool an audience. Hersonski shows the edited footage to a handful of survivors from the Ghetto and captures their heart breaking emotional reactions. Most shake their head in disbelief at the blatantly false representation of life in the ghettos.

A Film Unfinished is a powerful and moving indictment of this Nazi propaganda and its cruel lie.
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A heartbreaking look at Nazi inhumanity and manipulation
CinemaFrostedBetty16 May 2011
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 ghetto—dining 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 housing—a 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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Title is appropriate: this footage is in search of a thesis
Michael Wehle8 May 2011
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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Difficult to watch at times, but it is an important finished product
meeza5 June 2011
Holocaust movies have always reigned supreme by the Academy Awards and other film award delegations. However, one can always debate what was really real in those movies or how much was overblown for dramatic enhancements. I am not trying to degrade those films, because most of them were stellar; such as "Schindler's List", "Life is Beautiful", "The Pianist", just to name a few. However, the first film footage on the pre-Holocaust was filmed by none other than the Germans themselves back in 1942 in the Warsaw ghetto. The actors were real Jews who were not aware of their eventual fatal fate by later deportation and mass killings by the Germans. The film was simply titled "The Ghetto" and was 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. It was later discovered that it was no more than an unauthentic Nazi film trying to depict that Jews were not treated harshly by the Germans, and actually showed footage of the Jews eating at decent restaurants and attending theatrical shows; even though it also revealed the atrocities of the malnourishment of the ghetto by showing dead corpses on the sidewalks among other "tough to stomach" real images. The intent was to show the differentiations of the Jewish classes in the ghetto. But the "reel" intent was to cinematically manipulate to demonstrate that the Germans treated the Jews fairly and were not responsible for their poverty & melancholy state. Obviously, we all know that is not the "reel" truth, especially when unseen footage was later found that proved that many of the scenes in "The Ghetto" film were staged and various scenes took many takes. Writer-Director Yael Hersonski meticulously crafts the documentary "A Film Unfinished" as an expository revelation on the German staged production of "The Ghetto". Not only does Hersonski presents most of the "The Ghetto" footage, but also of the recently discovered footage that authenticated the pseudo- realities of what ghetto life was like for the Jews. Moreover, in "A Film Unfinished", Holocaust survivors presenting their harsh experiences of the ghetto as a child which even more validate the falsity of the German production "The Ghetto". Hersonski even interviews one of "The Ghetto" cameramen who states that when he was filming, he was naïve of the primary intent of "The Ghetto" production, among other revealing atrocities behind the German carnage of the Jews. There are wide array of harsh truths that make "A Film Unfinished" difficult to finish. But it is documentary that people of all religions and classes should start and finish just for the sole reason to be reminded that an authoritative government serves no purpose, and always hurts a mass of innocent people; and those are the dictatorships that should always be finished. **** Good
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Film May Reveal Lies or Truth
Jay Raskin27 June 2012
There is a real aesthetic and ethical layer to this movie that makes it fascinating and well worth the time and effort to watch. It is a film which shows a certain irony. The Nazis were going to show the real suffering in the Warsaw Ghetto. They were going to show the truth in what was happening in the Ghetto. That is why they filmed real scenes of suffering. However, they also filmed staged scenes in order to blame the suffering on the Jews themselves. The Nazis did not deny the suffering, they simply blamed the victims and hid the real cause - the Nazis themselves.

The film gives us enough information for us to understand that it was the the Nazis who were directly responsible for the inhuman conditions we see in the film.

This film shows us the essence of propaganda. It is the ruling class convincing itself that their victims deserve their suffering and are responsible for it.

The film exposes both the real situation and false propaganda the Nazis intended to create to fool people into believing that they were innocent of their crimes.

It is a brilliant, transcendental film that all people should see and consider.

Some of the scenes are pretty horrific, for example, corpses being collected and thrown into mass graves, and I did turn my eyes away from the screen briefly. However, there is also an ironical humor in seeing how the Nazis sought to shift the blame, but only ended up providing evidence of their inhuman and shocking crimes. The amazing viciousness of the Nazis is matched by the amazing stupidity of this master race.

I saw the film on Netflix. I believe it will be opening in two months in August in theaters around the country. See it on Netflix or in the theaters. It is time well spent. We owe it not to the dead, but to ourselves to see it and remember.
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Amust see -- maybe we could of avoided Rwanda, Bosnia, and Serbia
mirekcanada16 September 2011
This film is testament to the survivors of the "Final Solution" but its also a sad reminder of my past, as a relative of a survivor its just almost as bad as living it yourself I heard the stories from my Dad and Grandmother, and they sounded like unbelievable stories, But to see the footage I was able to put a real face on the stories my Relatives told me, I could picture my Dad as one of the children in the documentary ( hes was yrs old in 1942) My grandfather was a prisoner of Auswich, my grandmother worked at one of the factories associated with the concentration camp, she refused to leave Poland as the transfered the workers to Germany when the Russians where at the footsteps, subsequently when the Russians arrived at the new Factory in Germany the shot all the Poles who worked their as collaborators so thanks to My grandma I'm here today. Seeing this documentary reminds me of the life they had, what they endured, and the reason I,m here today . I thank the people who put this together and most of all I thank my Grandmother, Grandfather (he escaped and was part of the Polish Army at Monty Casino) and my father who had no childhood. I love you all and God bless.So see it to mourn for the dead and to celebrate the privileged live you live, and thank the WWII veterans who gave their lives, and the many who returned scared for life to rid us of the Nazis
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kicklighterjam10 February 2014
Having watched this film several times it still haunts me. Knowing that behind the smiling faces that you see in the film, that pure horror propells them.Seeing the piles upon piles of dead bodies and the pure evil that was done, haunting can not even come close to what i was watching.I do not believe that this film should be viewed by those younger than 18. If it has had the effect on me at age 60, i do not think it wise for them to see. It is vital for this film to be seen by older persons who can some how manage to sit through it. If by the end you are not bothered by it, then there is something very wrong with your humanity.It is so true that Man is more savage and inhuman than an animal.
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It's all been a terrible mistake and misunderstanding.
Cinema_Fan28 January 2013
By the time Adolf Hitler (b. 1889) had written Mein Kampf (My Struggle) he had already surmised that at least half of Germany's problems during World War 1 were due to the lack of vision and skill to use and project propaganda, to give it its political tag, enlightenment. This, the method of control of the mind, body and soul to enhance its people to complete dominance, oppression and obedience of the Will through fear, hatred, paranoia, to the point of xenophobia. Hitler had learned his lesson with extreme interest and with the onslaught of his uprising to the days of his decline he had used the medium of the moment; film.

Dr. (Paul) Joseph Goebbels (b. 1897), Hitler's appointed minister for Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, had total control over all mediums, and film and cinema were to be his greatest ally. (Worthy of note here is the David Welch book "Propaganda and the German Cinema; 1933-1945" that delves into the mind and machine that is both Goebbels and his highly controlled medium which analyses major German propaganda film and documentaries of that era).

Here, with reel one, with A Film Unfinished, we see the birth of an idea that bears fruition but is never completed; the title of this film, within this documentary that is being examined is, simply, called The Ghetto. With no dialogue, no sound but simply a moment caught in time, it is, on first viewing, an account of life within the Ghetto of Warsaw: good, bad or indifferent. It is with this in mind that we are given an account of several interwoven worlds; we are shown the rich, the poor, the destitute and those with, seemingly, influence all congesting in one tiny mass of land, three square miles, committing to weddings, parties, funerals, a circumcision and life, all 400,000.

What A Film Unfinished tries to dispel here is the fact that with the finding of a second reel, later, the whole process before now looks very much tainted and dubious, Ms. Yael Hersonski has uncovered a conspiracy of fear and total obedience within the Warsaw Ghetto, conducted by the Nazi propaganda machine. Breaking the myth that what we have witnessed beforehand has been nothing more than a fabricated, constructed and manipulated tool to express how the Nazi regime and in particular, the Jewish community here, were living life happily, freely and independently.

This valid point of photo manipulation begs the question "What can we believe?", if this second reel had never been found would we still, with extreme caution perhaps, take the whole scenario for granted? What Ms. Hersonski has done is to discharge the myth of life, not so much as in the Ghetto, but the Nazis' point of view of life within its streets, with the account of first hand witnesses' and to have, too, an account from one of the Nazi camera crew. All making their point very well, an elaborate hoax.

What cannot be covered up with lies here is the squalor, deprivation and hunger that conflicts with the affluent rich that coincide with this open prison, this, just may have been the image that the Nazi propaganda machine wanted to project, a polar opposite of a community living side-by-side. To steer both resentment and disgust for these people by portraying them as weak and at the same time a selfish race.

The scene in which children caught with food under their clothing and forced to empty their pockets, seeing the food spill out onto the street, is both heartbreaking and at the same time untrustworthy, again, one has to be careful in judging what we see, as we have now become aware that not all we see is accountably factual. This is the power of the medium of film and this, too, ironically, is the power of Ms. Hersonski work here. Raising questions that need to be asked, has the documentary film ever been so poorly placed, so exposed to the point of questionable doubt. Can we truly believe in what we are seeing, even with today's medium playing its role in contemporary societies? There is only one possible simple answer, one possible simple solution, trust not in what you see on the screen but trust more in what one has to say, to hear and to experience. This is where the true documentary lies.
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the purpose of the original raw footage
jparsons-106-25779214 July 2011
When you watch this film, you will be told multiple times that the purpose of the film is unknown. Yet, when you listen to the description of how the film was made, and consider that propaganda was the intent of the film, I think that the purpose is understandable. Imagine that the film portrays not a controlled situation, rather an isolated situation; for, the Nazi presentation of the film would not have portrayed the situation as having been staged or controlled, rather the Nazi presentation would have purported to merely show Jews living in isolation from the outside world. The Nazi presentation would pretend to show how Jews interacted socially and economically when living together and establishing their own system of order. The Nazi presentation would pretend to show that the Jews were obviously unwilling to let go of one organizing principle no matter how bad things got, that organizing principle is capitalism. Remember, Nazi is National Socialism. And, Hitler had his own brand of "social justice", to wit, to return to Germans that which had been taken from them by the allegedly reprobate capitalist Jews. Now, imagine this film as a vehicle for advancing Hilter's brand of social justice and national socialism. As a Nazi, one could view this film footage and be permitted to feel satisfaction that the Jews were beyond redemption and meriting extinction in their inherent callous capitalist ways. Such is the original raw film's two fisted Nazi attack on both capitalism and the Jews. Think about it.
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One of the saddest films I have ever seen
Frank Shelley4 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The previous review had just about all the points worth covering, except for one scene when the survivors who help comment on the film (they were children in the Warsaw Ghetto) are screening footage and they show the mass burial house. Their comments and actions as all these suppressed memories come back to them is one of the most truly moving scenes ever captured on film.

If you do not cry at some point during this footage you have no soul.

This is NOT a date movie, a rainy day let's sit on the sofa together movie, or a movie that any children should watch w/o their parents there to answer questions. This IS a movie that everyone should watch.
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Heartbreaking and agonizing to watch
Steve12 July 2017
Not only because of the scenes of death, squalor, disease and hunger in the Ghetto (many of which had previously been screened in other documentaries) but because of what missing footage revealed: Most of the scenes were choreographed and rehearsed by the Nazis doing the filming, who forced their Jewish "actors" (including Adam Czerniakow, head of the Nazi appointed Judenrat) to do takes of the scenes until they were completed to the satisfaction of the Nazis. One can only imagine the terror these "actors" felt. The fact that the Nazis themselves never released this "documentary" they spent an entire month shooting in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 is significant. Why did they expend all that effort and then not release the film?

Without a doubt, the Nazi filmmakers experienced schadenfreude forcing Jews to enact scenes which suggested they were disgusting and depraved people who were indifferent to each other's suffering. But surely even the Nazis would not have expended such effort simply out of sadism. A clue exists with two other Nazi films (released in 1940) why the Nazis chose not to release this film, or even to edit it and provide narration. One of those films "Der Ewige Jude" (The Eternal Jew) consisted of scenes the Nazis shot in the Lodz Ghetto (crosscut with scenes of rats swarming out of a sewer and over sacks of grain) accompanied by tendentious narration. That film was a flop- even German audiences that had been exposed to years of Nazi propaganda recognized the film as odious and unsubtle propaganda, and knew without being told that the Nazis themselves created the appalling conditions in the Ghetto. The other film "Jud Suess" (Jew Suess) was a Nazi rewriting of a novel written by a Jewish author, which completely altered the story. However, it was a film with a plot, a hero, a heroine and of course a villain. It was odious propaganda as well, but it was dressed up as entertainment. It was a success, not only in Germany, but in other Nazi occupied countries, such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
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Manages to add something new
Warning: Spoilers
"Shtikat Haarchion" or "Geheimsache Ghettofilm" or "A Film Unfinished" is a co-production between Germany and Israel from 2010 that resulted in this 85-minute documentary. Writer and director is Yael Hersonski and this is possibly his most known work. One reason for this may be that films about the years of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust usually attract enough viewers to keep a film from staying entirely unknown, even if you do not really deliver anything new to the subject. Of course, it's also not easy to do the latter as so many documentaries about this already exist. But luckily this one here does bring something new to the table, namely interesting information about a German propaganda film. That one was supposed to be made at the Warsaw ghetto and depict Jews as people living in the ghetto in order to convince Germans and audiences that even in the ghettos life isn't bad at all for them and maybe increase hate towards Jews even further. I am not entirely sure if this propaganda movie got made or still exists today (in fragments?), but thanks to this documentary we find out a bit about the backgrounds and circumstances of the production. I still believe it is really difficult to make a 90-minute film about a film of under an hour, so there were moments when I felt they could have been left out of this documentary piece. Anyway, it is still a good watch overall, mostly thanks to all the old footage that leaves a lasting impression and there are still some touching moments at times, even if I felt the film did not manage to make the emotional impact it tried to make, at least on me. Nonetheless, I am not surprised by all the awards recognition it received, also in the United States, even if it did not get nominated for an Oscar. I think it deserved awards recognition, but it was maybe a bit too much. If you are an English native speaker, you may want to get subtitles for this one here. Without being too enthusiastic about it (maybe also because of the subject), I recommend checking it out all in all.
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Propaganda is right...
Howard Feuerwerker9 May 2012
It just seems strange to me. This film was supposedly found at war's end, yet nobody ever heard of it until this mensch just happens to stumble across it somewhere and immediately recognizes that it's a propaganda film (he would know). Of course, now we can safely ignore all the photos and films of well-to-do Jews oblivious to the poverty of their neighbors- any time you see a Jew do anything heartless or callous or evil or negative in any way, it's obviously just staged propaganda made to make them look bad. How fortunate that this film was 'discovered', otherwise we would have to believe that us Jews are just like everyone else, that our merchants are as greedy as Gentile merchants, that our wealthy can be just as disconnected and heartless as any other religion's wealthy. If not for this film, we might think that Jews are somehow less than perfect and actually capable of fault!

And to answer this nonsense:

"The Nazi presentation would pretend to show that the Jews were obviously unwilling to let go of one organizing principle no matter how bad things got, that organizing principle is capitalism. Remember, Nazi is National Socialism. And, Hitler had his own brand of "social justice", to wit, to return to Germans that which had been taken from them by the allegedly reprobate capitalist Jews."

Nazi Germany was not socialist, it was fascist. Fascism is state capitalism. At least they didn't forbid American capitalists from selling them weapons throughout the entire war. Google Bush trading with the enemy. Capitalists put profits above EVERYTHING- whether they happen to be Jewish or not makes no difference.
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Does this mean Capitalist Jews were Nazi collaborators?
nadejdakuznetzova29 December 2017
"A Film Unfinished" - film by Yael Hersonski. Why "A Film Unfinished" & why credit it to Yael Hersonski? It was perhaps perfectly finished already! Old Chinese proverb: A picture tells a thousand words! This is basically a silent movie - i.e. without words, but it needs no words! With scathing, hateful looks & gestures, privileged persons glare at starving, sick/dying, traumatised children & young & old women & men who have somehow become entangled against their will, within a horrendous environment - interloping into the "precious" lives of the privileged. Whoever made this documentary obviously wished to expose Capitalism - with the obscenity & depravity of wealth, glowing physical beauty & health vs Poverty - with the depraved & deprived extreme social exclusion & powerlessness of lower status. Extreme sadness! But this projection cannot be faked! Not even in Hollywood! While film maker, Yael Hersonski suggests this documentary was for Nazi Propaganda Machine in 1942, I suggest this documentary was made by persons who wished to expose truths - not falsity of propaganda! Who would agree to expose themselves as "capitalist pigs" for the Nazi war machine? Were they also Nazis or Jewish collaborators? Or simply stupid people who really did think they were superior to poor masses? This is the basic understanding of capitalism & accordingly, is no crime. The opposite view is to understand Jesus, Mohammed, Marx & Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Castro, Chavez, etc., etc., etc. I think "A Film Unfinished" was perhaps originally assembled perfectly to defy capitalism in all its degrees .... to expose its depraved power & how it suffocates the poor! But in reality, capitalists ultimately are big-time losers! While the poor physically die in extreme pain & sadness, the rich die - sooner or later - also ... but in extreme mental & soul-strangling torment. Nazis were expert in capitalist tacts! Initially practising euthanasia, they quickly moved to obvious murder - striking against anyone & everyone - rich or poor - like insane creatures! And this is the message of this film! These insanity has no particular ethnicity & is non-discriminatory! While the film's female commentators recall their personal hygiene during the Holocaust, they nevertheless couldn't spare a mouldy crust of bred for an orphaned beggar child who scrounged through filthy faecal/excrement heaps in the streets for sustenance! So who is the Nazi? So humanity behaves humanely towards the vulnerable/powerless! If this is capitalism, I choose communism/socialism - whichever is appropriate to the situation! - extreme or mundane. Actually in this film, one sees German soldiers standing idly by watching the privileged Jews deliberately averting their gaze from the "ugliness of the poor". Do the German soldiers, watching from the sidelines, recognise themselves in the ugly capitalist creatures who in their disdain of the poor, hasten their inevitable fate. Close ups of the film show individual victims of holocaust (viewings of every angle of their shaven heads) - defenceless in their diminishing dignity & pride but nevertheless with underlying defiance. They appear stoically beautiful! In stark contrast, the rich privileged capitalists are perversely ugly despite their obvious wealth! I'm not a believer in conventional god but i understand Escher's "Scapegoat" analogy of God & Satan. Furthermore there were more than Nazi hands that "rocked the cradle"! These are the hypocrites!
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Ask how the government can deceive the people
Steve Pulaski30 November 2015
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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"They lived here until they died."
classicsoncall14 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A single film cannister simply labeled 'The Ghetto', found many years following the end of World War II, sheds light on the Nazi propaganda machine and it's attempt to manipulate public opinion by revealing how 'wealthy' Jews seemingly lived alongside those of lesser means without regard for their squalid conditions. I was fascinated by the frequent use of the term 'rich' Jews, as today, the clothes they wore and the parties they attended under staged conditions resembled what would be considered moderately middle class. In actuality, I couldn't relate to terms like 'luxury' and 'paradise' as portrayed in the documentary, although one might consider that luxury would have described any possibility of escaping the torment and misery depicted here.

If one's only perception of living conditions for the mass of Jewish humanity under the Nazi regime is pictures like "Schindler's List", then this footage offers the real deal. It's impossible to imagine hundreds of thousands of people cramped into a three square mile area of a ravaged city, starving and malnourished, tossing garbage out the windows of their tenements because they're too weak to dispose of it properly. Gaunt, expressionless children rummaging through piles of garbage looking for a useful bit of food scrap. The dead brought out to sidewalks and left to be rounded up in mass graves because they couldn't be buried properly. The conditions presented in this film are almost impossible to conceive in one's imagination, so horrid are the images that citizens of the Warsaw Ghetto had to endure as part of their daily life.

Much of the film commentary is gleaned from the written documentation provided by Adam Czerniakow, the head of the Jewish council placed in charge of the Ghetto by the Nazi regime. There's also the recollections of cameraman Willy Wist who recorded much of the atrocity, one of the few such photographers who's name can be connected to the visual history of this era. By the end of his tenure, Czerniakow obviously concluded that his job in The Ghetto was that of a manager of a holding pen for Jewish natives and refugees on their way to a Nazi final solution, the Treblinka Death Camp. Two months after being ordered to draw up lists of Jews for relocation to Treblinka, he committed suicide with a cyanide capsule.

As a historical document, this film is unscathing in it's portrayal of Nazi atrocity and the dehumanization of life on a grand scale. The reactions of now elderly survivors of the era who witnessed the conditions portrayed when they were children lends further testimony to how fortunate they were to finally escape. For historians and anyone interested in World War II, this is an unflinching look at how Man's inhumanity to Man can achieve indescribable proportions.
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