VIFF 2010 Review: A Film Unfinished

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A Film Unfinished

In the 1940s, the Nazi’s shot an unfinished film about life within the Warsaw Ghetto, a film that for years was used as a document of life within the ghetto. And then a few years ago, a new, previously unseen reel of the film was found, forever changing the meaning of the images we’d previously seen and taken in as fact.

Yael Hersonski’s documentary A Film Unfinished, goes beyond the images on screen and provides a deeply researched, rich history of the film that changes not only the way we look at this sliver of history but how we observe and read images in general. Supported by interviews from individuals who survived the ghetto and recall the filming and even a camera operator who remembers the herding and directing of Jews, we learn the truth of life in the ghetto and the lengths the propaganda machine was willing to stretch to make its point.

What’s most fascinating about Hersonki’s film is that while she meticulously breaks down the film to uncover the fake images, she makes us question not only the validity of this document but of other historical documents through the years. What other bits of history have we misread or misunderstood? And perhaps most importantly, how can we insure that this doesn’t happen again?

A powerful, devastating film, A Film Unfinished isn’t an easy watch but a necessary one and an excellent counterpart to Errol Morris’ Standard Operating Procedure which also explores the meaning of images and how they are perceived.

See VIFF screening schedule for show times.

Trailer tucked under the seats.


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Saw this Sunday morning. Boy, that was a rough watch, but at the same time absolutely fascinating to see the the Nazi propaganda machine at work; some of those images near the end of the film were particularly brutal. It was amazing to me that those journals survived, giving so much insight into what was actually going on behind the scenes.

Not something I will watch again anytime soon, if ever, but I'm glad I saw it.

Andrew James

Damn. According to the film's official site it's not playing anytime soon in Minnesota. Too bad because this looks absolutely fascinating while devastating.