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A Film Unfinished

Submitted by admin on November 17, 2010 – 10:30 pmNo Comment
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A Film Unfinished documents several reels of an unmarked film that was made in Nazi Germany. The only title merely states Ghetto. The film was shot in the Warsaw ghetto where Jews were forced to live enclosed as in a prison (in May of 1942). Within months most of the occupants would be shipped off to concentration camps like Treblinka.

A Film Unfinished allows us to gaze at the reels in their entirety, the silence replaced by eyewitness testimony, along with transcribed accounts of the filmmaking taken from a post-WWII war crimes trial. A separate reel of outtakes reveals that the film was completely staged, especially the scenes of banal everyday life. Additional narration comes from the secret diary of Jewish official who was in charge of the gated community and who later committed suicide.

We see Jews, and you know they’re Jewish because they have these stars on the cuffs of their jackets, having a sit down meal in a restaurant. The narration informs us that they’re were men from the ghetto, costumed and forced to eat fine food for a day in a restaurant set. We see a theater full of people laughing at a stage revue. We discover that said people were forced to sit there all day being filmed with no bathrooms breaks allowed. If they didn’t clap and laugh they were taken away, never to be seen again the narration again informs. We see men and women nude, dipping into the waters of ritual baths. This is perhaps the cruelest moment in the film since the moment captured on film not only perpetuates a stereotype but shows human beings stripped of all dignity, doing what they can to please their captors before their ultimate demise.

A Film Unfinished plays in Houston this weekend, November 18-20 at the Kaplan Theatre at the Jewish Community Center (713 729 3200 for tickets and times).

- Michael Bergeron

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