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Case Number 20964: Small Claims Court

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A Film Unfinished

Oscilloscope // 2010 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // March 24th, 2011

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All Rise...

It may be unfinished, but this is one film Judge Daniel Kelly won't forget.

The Charge

In 1942, the Nazi propaganda machine was hard at work. 70 years later, the deceit is finally unmasked

The Case

A Film Unfinished is a moving albeit draining viewing experience, a documentary that utilizes oodles of horrendous footage from inside the Warsaw Ghetto during the year 1942. Filmmaker Yael Hersonski examines a Nazi propaganda piece named Das Ghetto, the uncompleted work referenced in this documentary's title. Both a tumultuous examination of Jewish life under The Third Reich and a biting comment on the nature of propaganda, A Film Unfinished is an important cinematic artifact that helps further remind us of a time we should never forget.

The film is a skillfully edited endeavor, silkily combining large chucks of Das Ghetto with dramatic reenactments and firsthand survivor reactions. The movie runs smoothly as a whole, Hersonski maintaining a nice rhythmic flow whilst also keeping the frame filled with valuable historical information. Of course some of the footage from Warsaw is intensely disturbing, there are graphic moments involving mass graves and sickening physical abuse, but it all rolls together to create an organic and educational experience. The picture never seeks to pull its punches, instead delving firsthand into the atrocities the Jewish population endured, and the cloak of deception the Nazi propagandists managed to create. Das Ghetto never reached the stage of development in which a soundtrack could be applied, thus much of A Film Unfinished actually unravels in a haunting silence. An appropriately somber musical score is deployed occasionally, but Hersonski seems keenest to have the reels run quietly. This stylistic touch adds to the picture's mournful tone, it's almost as if the weary ghosts of these persecuted souls are staring up at you from your TV screen. Certainly from an aesthetical standpoint, this adds to the project's despairing depiction of ghetto existence.

The dramatic recreations evidenced are mostly vocal, as Hersonski uses manuscripts of legal trials (one of the cameramen was scrutinized thoroughly) and diaries from important personalities inside Warsaw to provide the terrifying raw footage with further context. It's a solid choice, as is the addition of reactions courtesy of living survivors as they relive their past through the frighteningly intimate frames featured in Das Ghetto. At first many of these figures appear to approach the film with a steely sense of detachment, but eventually it becomes too much, several of the commentators collapsing in fits of misery. On the basis of the despicable acts featured here, it's not hard to sympathize with them.

Of course due to the quantity of reliable firsthand information presented in A Film Unfinished, it is unquestionably useful for those studying this era in history. The film would make for a raw albeit credible classroom tool and a particularly strong source of knowledge for those dissecting the period in order to prepare for an examination. Indeed the DVD release even comes equipped with a Study Guide, in order to help the uninitiated develop a greater understanding of the Holocaust. The bonus content also provides input from both historians and film enthusiasts, providing audiences with a dosage of expert analysis on both fronts. Finally a short film is also included, Death Mills, which boasts actual footage from inside of concentration camps. It was directed by Billy Wilder, and is truly essential viewing.

Distributor Oscilloscope has packaged A Film Unfinished in classy and attractive cardboard casing, clearly having given this powerful piece of work the attention and care it deserves. In truth, this is a tough feature to write about, one really needs to see it in order to absorb what it offers. Seek it out.

The Verdict

Not Guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Oscilloscope
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Polish)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Yiddish)
• English
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Historical

Distinguishing Marks

• Interviews
• Short Film
• Study Guide


• IMDb

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