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A Film Unfinished

Critic's Pick Critics' Pick

(No longer in theaters)
  • Rating: No Rating — for disturbing images and Holocaust atrocities including graphic nudity
  • Director: Yael Hersonski   Cast: Alexander Beyer, Rüdiger Vogler
  • Running Time: 88 minutes
  • Reader Rating: Write a Review

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Genre

Documentary, Drama

Producer

Itai Ken-Tor, Noemi Schory

Distributor

Oscilloscope Pictures

Release Date

Aug 18, 2010

Release Notes

NY

Review

There is too much hell in Yael Hersonski’s documentary A Film Unfinished to begin to evoke it adequately. It’s assembled around reels discovered in a German vault: Nazi footage of life inside the Warsaw Ghetto—half a million starving Jews squeezed into three square miles—circa 1942, before most of the population was shipped to Treblinka and the remainder lost their lives fighting back. But the footage was not meant to be the basis of a fly-on-the-wall portrait. Many of the scenes were staged—by directors in uniforms, with guns—to create a work of propaganda. No one knows what its scenario would have been, but the best guess is the Nazis meant to show well-off Jews eating and performing their weird Jew rituals and going about their Jew lives while poor Jews starved to death under their feet. And no one knows why the film remained unfinished. I would like to think that the footage was too terrible for even the Nazi propagandists to bear—that the hard stares of passersby into the camera chilled them as much as it does us, 68 years later. Vain hope. The horror of A Film Unfinished transcends even its images of suffering and death, among the most obscene ever captured. It becomes a meditation on the dual nature of film, on a “reality” at once true and false, essential and tainted.

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