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.
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