A Film Unfinished (Shtikat Haarchion)
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In May of 1942, Nazi propagandists spent the month shooting their latest film inside the Warsaw Ghetto—an overcrowded neighborhood that housed hundreds of thousands of Jews. The unfinished film, simply called The Ghetto, depicted the inconsistencies of Jewish life on the inside. While some begged and even died on the streets, others lived in the lap of luxury, heartlessly ignoring their starving neighbors.

Discovered after the war, this three-reel propaganda film was eventually accepted as factual—until years later, when the discovery of a fourth reel revealed its dark secrets.

Director Yael Hersonski’s compelling documentary, A Film Unfinished, seeks to uncover some of the lies depicted in this infamous Nazi propaganda film. It shows heartbreaking clips from The Ghetto while exposing its lies using excerpts from some of the journals that were kept by Warsaw Ghetto residents and officials, along with first-hand accounts of the filmmaking and even the reactions of Jewish survivors, who tell their own stories while viewing the footage.

In the film, you may see Jewish residents shopping for meat and attending parties, but records and outtakes prove that the scenes were staged—and actual financial reports show how little food the residents of the Warsaw Ghetto received. Most struggled to care for themselves and their families while, outside their tiny one-room dwellings, garbage piled up on the streets, right along with the bodies of those who died there.

The Ghetto is filled with disturbing images that will haunt you for days: the sad, frightened eyes of the malnourished men, women, and children…the piles of rail-thin corpses that are bulldozed into mass graves. But perhaps even more haunting are the scenes with the survivors—the elderly men and women who were children and young adults during the war—as they relive the nightmares of their youth, sometimes covering their eyes to shield themselves from the horrifying images on the screen in front of them.

It’s certainly difficult to watch these disturbing images. It’s difficult to hear the narration—the readings of entries in journals written by defiant but frightened Jews and helpless government officials. At times, the film will turn your stomach. At other times, it will bring tears to your eyes. It will anger you and sadden you and absolutely horrify you. But A Film Unfinished is also a powerful—and unforgettable—exploration of the realities of life in the Ghetto and the cold and heartless deception of Nazi propagandists.

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