Monday, August 1, 2011

A Film Unfinished: The Warsaw Ghetto as Seen Through Nazi Eyes written and directed by Yael Hersonski 2010 (documentary)

In “A Film Unfinished,” the Israeli director Yael Hersonski embarks on a critical analysis of “Das Ghetto” that is remarkable as much for its speculative restraint as for its philosophical reach.  from a review in the New York Times by Jeannette Catsoulis 8/17/2010

Most of this documentary, by the Israeli writer/director Yael Hersonski, is archival footage shot in the Warsaw Ghetto  filmed by photographers working for the Nazis but never released.  Discovered in a warehouse in 1954, various clips have circulated and been incorporated into other documentaries. There are scenes of the Jewish head of the ghetto Adam Czerniakow receiving Orthodox Jews in his office, and scenes of an elaborate dinner held in his home. There is a segment that shows a circumcision. Also included are street shots of impoverished, emaciated Jewish children and adults begging, while well-dressed residents of the ghetto walk by seemingly ignoring them. And there are shots of corpses lying unclaimed in front of shops and in gutters as ghetto residents go about their business.

It was clear that many scenes, especially the indoor ones, were staged. Adam Czerniakow took part in the staged scenes but kept diaries which are quoted in the documentary explaining the fraud that that was being filmed. In 1998 more definitive evidence that confirmed the staging was found on a reel languishing in a warehouse that shows multiple takes of some scenes, demonstrating that some were rearranged and re-shot so that the Nazis could maximize the effect they were after.

At the same time that we are watching the film and the outtakes, five Warsaw ghetto survivors who now live in Israel are also watching. The archival film is stopped occasionally to get their reaction to what they are seeing. Some add details that they remember.

Although the film was shot for propaganda purposes and much of its contents cannot be trusted, the roving camera allows you to get see many of its residents in close-ups and in crowd scenes and it's possible to get a sense of what parts of the ghetto looked like.

To watch a very interesting Public Broadcasting Interview with the writer/director, Yael Hersonski, who discusses the making of her film, click here.

Hanna Avrutzki
Luba Gewisser
Aliza Vitis-Shomron
Jurek Plonski
Shula Zeder
Adam Czerniakow
Emanuel Ringelblum
Chaim Kaplan
Abraham Lewin
Rachel Auerbach
Jonas Turkow
Ben Shem
Hersh Waser

Warsaw Ghetto

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