A Film Unfinished
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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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A powerful account of a hidden chapter of the Holocaust, literally hidden in a cellar in the woods and kept from the world. Essential in Holocaust educational studies.Published 18 days ago by Ted Shealy
BORING. I was hoping to use this in a background activity for the Holocaust (teaching 9th grade), but there's no way my students would stay focused or even awake.Published 4 months ago by Sarah
One of the best documentaries I have ever seen if you are a student of the Holocaust.Published 5 months ago by Jean
A tough film to watch but absolutely necessary. I thought it was very well done - very sparse narration - the film spoke for itself. Read morePublished 6 months ago by ruth
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