Film collection highlight: “A Film Unfinished”

As the Library’s film collection continues to grow we will be periodically highlighting works that illustrate the breadth of materials available to faculty and students. This time University Archivist and History Librarian Dario Villa discusses Hersonski’s 2010 documentary, A Film Unfinished.

The visual record of the Holocaust is extensive and well represented in both the photographic and filmic formats. Stored in a concrete vault for more than fifty years in East Germany, “Das Ghetto”, (various reels) is representative of the power of Nazi propaganda depicting the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. An additional reel of outtakes was discovered in 1968 showing scenes filmed repeatedly by the German film crew. In “A Film Unfinished”, Israeli director Yael Hersonski screens all reels of the silent film, “Das Ghetto”, interspersed with additional comments from survivors, from diaries discovered after the war and from one of the Nazi cinematographers. It is a moving and disturbing depiction of the horrible suffering of the victims trapped in the ghetto, the majority destined to be deported to the death camps at Treblinka and Auschwitz. The viewer is seeing human beings destined to be murdered. A number of the survivors, at the time children, were invited by Hersonski to bear witness to the film and to comment on what they experienced. The most poignant testimony though, is by the silent stares of those who are doomed to perish at the hands of their oppressors. It remains unclear whether “Das Ghetto” was ever used by the Propaganda Ministry, though Hersonski thinks that it was filmed for the purpose of “educating” future German generations. As Hersonski said in an interview, this is “an exploration of the testimonial value of the cinematic image and of footage that was shot during times of war”.

Dario Villa – University Archivist/History Bibliographer

A Film Unfinished is available for checkout from the Library in DVD format. Our entire browse-able collection of popular and educational films can be found on the Library’s 3rd floor.

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