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A Film Unfinished

46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Using footage completely unparalleled, A Film Unfinished provides new insight into the Nazi propaganda machine, further exposing an agenda already known to be deceitful beyond our greatest beliefs. At the end of WWII, 60 minutes of raw film, having sat undisturbed in an East German archive, was discovered. Shot by the Nazis in Warsaw in May 1942 and labeled simply "Ghetto," this footage quickly became a resource for historians seeking an authentic record of the Warsaw Ghetto. However, the later discovery of a long-missing reel, including multiple takes and cameramen staging scenes, complicated earlier readings of the footage. A Film Unfinished presents the raw footage in its entirety, carefully noting fictionalized sequences (including a staged dinner party) falsely showing "the good life" enjoyed by Jewish urbanites, and probing deep into the making of the now-infamous Nazi propaganda film. A film of enormous import, A Film Unfinished documents some of the worst horrors of our time and exposes the efforts of its perpetrators to propel their agenda and cast it in a favorable light.

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A Film Unfinished, a harrowing look at the devious art of a propaganda film made by the Third Reich, is a rich and well-researched investigation into the filmic history of the Warsaw Ghetto. Made by Yael Hersonski, this documentary begins by explaining how a film found in a Berlin vault, called "The Ghetto," depicting Polish Jews living in luxury among the squalor of the three square miles that made up the real ghetto, has served as cinematic historical documentation of Warsaw only because it contains actual footage of the destitution there. However, by offering the viewer multiple takes of each scene, Hersonski argues that viewers need to remember that this propaganda film was completely staged to manipulate the viewer into believing in a contrast between what fortunate Jews allegedly could have had under the reign of the Third Reich. This is not to undercut or disrespect the true terror and tragedy that the viewer undoubtedly sees on film, but to build historical context for "The Ghetto" as an example of films made by the Third Reich that lied to the public in efforts to cover up atrocity. By presenting the entire 60 minutes of "The Ghetto" spliced with new footage, Hersonski proves the falsity of the propaganda film and also analyzes the history of how it was made and the psychology behind that historical impetus. Because this "story about a film that was never completed," as Hersonski calls it in the opening narration, shows survivors watching "The Ghetto" to annotate it with their actual memories, or an interview with Herr Wist, one of the cameramen of "The Ghetto," for example, A Film Unfinished takes a meta approach, jumping between vintage footage and that more current. As A Film Unfinished aims to set the record straight, it furthers a political resistance that Jews undertook during the war, when they were encouraged to document their dire daily existences through diary. In other words, this documentary is a tribute, a correction of history to honor those who died, witnessed, or survived atrocities prior to their move to Treblinka, Warsaw's affiliate death camp. Informative extras, like the alarming 22-minute short film Billy Wilder shot for the US Military, "Death Mills," interviews and essays by Adrian Wood and Michael Berenbaum, plus a study guide, make this a valuable academic resource. While the graphic nature of this film is disturbing at the deepest level, there is much here meant to provide healing through truth. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features

Interview with author and film researcher Adrian Wood
Scholar Michael Berenbaum on A Film Unfinished
Death Mills (1945): A short film by Billy Wilder, includes some of the first footage shot from within concentration camps post-liberation
Study Guide: For educators and students to gain a deeper understanding of the themes and lessons in the film
Exclusive essay by author and film scholar Annette Insdorf

Product Details

  • Actors: Alexander Beyer, Rüdiger Vogler
  • Directors: Yael Hersonski
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: German, Hebrew, Polish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories
  • DVD Release Date: March 8, 2011
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004EI2NWM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,093 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

163 of 170 people found the following review helpful By Yaakov Ben Shalom on January 6, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw this documentary in the move theater, and I thought it was incredible. It is a must-see for anyone interested in the Holocaust.

In 1942, the Nazis began making a documentary film about life in the Warsaw Ghetto. They captured the sheer horror and misery of daily life in the ghetto. But they also staged scenes to make the Jews look venal, corrupt, decadent, and cold-hearted. The Nazis would round up people on the street and make them gorge themselves at lavish feasts while beggars looked on. The Nazis made pedestrians walk over/past corpses lying on the sidewalk. The Nazis staged scenes of vamps preparing for a night out and nude co-ed bathing. The Nazis arranged a carefully choreographed meeting of Jewish Council chairman Adam Czerniakow and orthodox rabbis. It was all filmed for their documentary. But Nazis also filmed multiple takes of staged scenes and unfiltered images of daily life in the ghetto as it really was.

"A Film Unfinished" effectively shows the entire Nazi documentary as well as the outtakes. Moreover, the scenes from the Nazi documentary are juxtaposed with commentary from eyewitnesses who saw the filming or participated in it. They explain exactly what the Nazis were up to in staging and filming these scenes. As a result, the viewer sees still-shocking footage of life in the ghetto and gains insight into how the Nazis managed life in the ghetto to further degrade the Jews and to present them in an unfavorable light for propaganda purposes.

Because the Nazis' documentary was never fully edited and released, "A Film Unfinished" -- presenting the Nazis' film and historical commentary on it -- may be the most accurate cinemagraphic record of ghetto life.
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66 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Lefand VINE VOICE on April 8, 2011
Format: DVD
"A Film Unfinished" is a documentary of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 just prior to the Nazi's start of the "resettlement" of Jews from Warsaw to concentration camps and a "better life." This documentary by Yael Hersonski, is composed of raw footage found untouched in an East German archive after World War II with a simple label "Ghetto." "A Film Unfinished" is a powerful and moving historical account of how the Third Reich used staged scenes of Jews in Warsaw for propaganda purposes. The film's narration describes how the scenes were orchestrated by the Nazis, using the threat of beatings to coerce Jews to look shameless (forced mixed-sex nude bathing), callous (passing bodies on the street uncaringly), licentious (filming Jews enjoying lavish meals while they were actually starving), and as though life was acceptable and pleasurable in the ghetto.

Who could be fooled by this deception? Apparently many were because the Third Reich machinery was a master of propaganda and used many other edited films to vilify the Jew and hide the depravity they subjected them.

However, watch this film and look at the eyes of those being filmed. It is there that this raw footage reveals the anguish and terror felt by those being told how to appear before the camera. One can see the hopelessness as many of them stare at the cameras or off into an unknowable distance.

By including the multiple takes of many scenes from the raw footage, often with other Nazi cameramen inadvertently filmed, we can see the intentional deception being perpetrated.

Along with the narration the documentary has interspersed film clips of individuals who survived the Warsaw Ghetto of 1942. As they watch the survivors give comments on the horror from their past and the film.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful By The Movie Man VINE VOICE on March 7, 2011
Format: DVD
"A Film Unfinished," a documentary by Yael Hersonski, features 60 minutes of raw film found undisturbed in an East German archive at the end of World War II.

Shot by the Nazis in Warsaw in May, 1942, and labeled simply as "Ghetto," this footage became a resource for historians seeking an authentic record of the Warsaw Ghetto. However, the later discovery of a long-missing reel, including multiple takes and cameramen staging scenes, complicated earlier interpretations of the footage.

"A Film Unfinished" presents the raw footage in its entirety, carefully noting fictionalized sequences (including a staged dinner party) falsely showing "the good life" enjoyed by Jewish urbanites, and probing deep into the making of the infamous Nazi propaganda film.

Included are an interview with author/film researcher Adrian Wood and a study guide.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Matthew G. Sherwin HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 9, 2011
Format: DVD
After World War Two ended, huge amounts of film were discovered which had been hidden away by The Nazis. Among these films was something of great importance--a film simply entitled "The Ghetto" filmed in May of 1942. It was never released by the Nazis but their intention was clear: they wanted to prove to the world that the Jews imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto were actually living under "reasonable conditions." Some of the footage is not well preserved or restored; but it doesn't need to be restored in order to have a most powerful, horrifying and infuriating effect.

While the Nazis documented the horrific conditions of the ghetto; we also see how they had their cameramen stage elaborate events to make it appear that the conditions in the ghetto were tolerable when, of course, the truth was anything but that. For example, there is footage of what is actually a make-believe funeral procession; theater shows for which the "audience" had to laugh just right or they would be beaten by the Nazis; wealthy Jews ignoring impoverished children begging for just a tiny amount of money or just a slice of bread to eat--in this case, to demonstrate to the world that Jews were truly sub-humans who had neither heart nor soul. Other scenes included making Jews dispassionately walk over corpses as if nothing was wrong or disturbing about it and humiliating men and women by making them take a ritual bath together on film. There are even several different "takes" of many "scenes" so that the Nazis would capture just what they wanted to show on film!

In addition, we get commentaries from survivors watching the footage; obviously it has a tremendous impact on them. The flood of emotions they experience makes them cry and shut their eyes because it is so painful.
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