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A Film Unfinished

Documentary looks at a Nazi propaganda film depicting Warsaw Jews

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In 1942, Nazi propagandists set out to make a film showing the opulence of life in the Warsaw ghetto, with actors portraying indulgent Jewish families living high on the -- well, not hog, of course. They never completed it, and in A Film Unfinished, Yael Hersonski, an Israeli filmmaker, looks at the four reels of detritus they left behind. But actually, as Hersonski says in her narration, the footage is a gift, and "from the frenzy of propaganda, the images alone remain, concealing many layers of reality." Using all of the old film -- some of it showing the horrors of ghetto life -- along with readings from diaries and trial testimony, she reconstructs life in "a holding pen before the final destination." We also see some Holocaust survivors watch the old silent footage, and they remember when the Germans came to film the ghetto, where the starving and the dead littered the streets. "I keep thinking that among all of these people," a survivor says, "I might see my mother walking by." Hersonski's austere film once again documents the unimaginable that we don't need to imagine, and she asks without asking what kind of people could perpetrate such a thing. In English, and German, Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish, with subtitles. Starts Fri., Nov. 12. Manor

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