Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sundance Films: A Film Unfinished

Title: A Film Unfinished
Director: Yael Hersonski
Website: no individual site, but click here for Sundance page

Summary: Yael Hersonski’s powerful documentary achieves a remarkable feat through its penetrating look at another film—the now-infamous Nazi-produced film about the Warsaw Ghetto. Discovered after the war, the unfinished work, with no soundtrack, quickly became a resource for historians seeking an authentic record, despite its elaborate propagandistic construction. The later discovery of a long-missing reel complicated earlier readings, showing the manipulations of camera crews in these “everyday” scenes. Well-heeled Jews attending elegant dinners and theatricals (while callously stepping over the dead bodies of compatriots) now appeared as unwilling, but complicit, actors, alternately fearful and in denial of their looming fate. Hersonski relentlessly screens each reel as ghetto survivors and (amazingly) one of the original cameramen recall actual events, investing the cryptic scenes with detail, complexity, and authority. Rigorous in its regard for human tragedy and the power of images, A Film Unfinished indicts both the evil and the astounding narcissism of the Nazi state (Sundance).

Thoughts: Honest reaction. Not sure how I feel about Yael Hersonski's film. The Holocaust boat has pretty much set sail in the documentary genre, in that there have been so many great films on the subject in the past everything new seems just like a rehashing. With that said, I don't know much about the Nazi-produced film about the Warsaw Ghetto so perhaps A Film Unfinished has something worth telling. This one of a handful of films we'll just have to wait and see how audiences respond in order to get a better reading on it.

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