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Fresh at FLEFF

News, Views, Updates and More about the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival

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Posted by Thomas Shevory at 9:36AM   |  2 comments
A Film Unfinished

Diabolically imaginative and ever interested in the potential applications of film to politics, Nazi propagandists made a fake documentary about life inside the Warsaw Ghetto. While this film will disturb you, you should take time from your busy schedule to see it. It represents a unique historical artifact, the implications of which are only now becoming apparent.

The long and complex history of the film unwinds through its reconstruction, as a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and a cameraman involved with shooting the film screen the footage together and give their reactions.


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, inclusive of multiple takes and cameraman 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 probes deep into the making of a now-infamous Nazi propaganda film.

A Film Unfinished has received widespread critical acclaim:

 GRADE: A' “A profound and vital documentary.” — Lisa Schwartzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"A subdued aural-visual symphony.  A brilliant reminder of the importance of bearing witness."
 — Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York (Critic's Pick)

"A unique cinematic experience.  There's no doubting the profound depths of Hersonski's research, and her brilliant capacity to assemble this material into a coherent narrative." — Eric Kohn, Indiewire


This film reveals a haunting fiction. It reminds us of the power of film and that it had and still holds a grip on us today. Although film has the power to clarify with every clarification new clouds fog our vision. It is a film like this that emphasizes that film must be torn apart again and again to understand the complexities behind it. The more it is deconstructed the more the haunting clarity comes to light.

A Film Unfinished really emphasizes the unreliability of the indexical quality of the image, that staging in 'documentary' is always a factor and that objective filming does not exist. The piece points blatantly at film's not only ability but tendency to lie to the viewer, the innate concept of recording and process that are the fundamental aspects of film.

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