A Film Unfinished: Powerful Documentary A-
“Ä Film Unfinished,” Yael Hersonski’s powerful documentary, makes a huge contribution to the growing literature of the Nazi era in general and Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto in particular.
Hersonski’s work relies on riveting, footage discovered after the War, a meticulously staged, agit-prop feature, orchestrated by the Fascist machine for export.
Since the end of WWII, a copy of a 60-minute unfinished propaganda film, shot by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto in May 1942, a year prior to the legendary uprising (well documented by several scholars and filmmakers), labeled simply “Ghetto,” sat undisturbed in an East German archive.
“A Film Unfinished” presents the entire indispensable film, containing both documentary and fictionalized sequences, such as the fake and unsettling views of Jewish patrons eating at an elegant restaurant, or strolling down the streets dressed in formal suits and dresses clothes, or a luxurious funeral cortege.
Furthermore, Hersonski includes a revealing interview with Willy Wist, the only cinematographer identified with the production (who at one point his himself caught onscreen in his S.S. uniform).
This mesmerizing footage is contrasted with present-day scenes, in which now-elderly former residents of the Warsaw Ghetto, reviewing the footage, occasionally recognize their neighbors, or report upon the filmmakers’ efforts to stage fantasies of economic affluence, social welfare, and luxuriant leisure, or of Jews treating their less fortunate compatriots with callous disdain.
A film of enormous, undeniable historical and political significance, “Än Unfinihsed Film” chronicles the living conditions under which ghetto residents lived and the efforts (however imperfect) of the criminal perpetrators to recast this reality to suggest an entirely different scenario.
Premiering at the estimable Film Forum (in Downtown New York), the presentation is made with financial support from the Joan S. Constantiner Fund for Jewish and Holocaust Film.
Running time: 89 Minutes.
Directed, written by Yael Hersonski.
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