Quick look: 'A Film Unfinished' | Rock Candy

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quick look: 'A Film Unfinished'

Posted By on Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 2:02 PM

For a couple of weeks, I ended up watching hours and hours of movies about, well, Jewish people in duress. "Night and Fog," "One Day in September," "Europa Europa." I didn't intentionally have a marathon; my Netflix queue just shook out that way. So when a screener copy of "A Film Unfinished" ended up on my desk, I wasn't terribly enthused about watching yet another Holocaust film even though I had seen plaudits like "documentary of the year" hung around it.

But "A Film Unfinished" laid me out cold, ensuring that my now completely rattled brain won't tackle another Holocaust film for a long while. Director Yael Hersonski's newest is just that affecting—a documentary as unnerving as nearly any I've ever seen.

It eyes in on an infamous, unfinished propaganda film, "The Ghetto," which provides the only visual chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto, and a recently discovered fifth reel of film that reveals damning behind-the-scenes manipulation of crowds by the Nazi filmmakers. I won't go into details of the trickery at hand, but it's cruel in its simplicity and wholly dehumanizing in its blatant manipulation.

What we're left with is a priceless piece of Holocaust scholarship, a reel of raw footage that offers a hard document of the limitless, labyrinthine cruelty the Nazi regime was capable of inflicting.

"Recommending" a Holocaust documentary is like recommending getting a hot iron-brand tattoo—it stings for weeks, stays with you for longer—but if you have the constitution to tackle a profoundly unnerving doc, "A Film Unfinished" opens today at Market Street Cinema.

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