A Film Unfinished is a remarkable documentary about the Warsaw Ghetto. Much of the film is comprised of raw silent footage shot by the Nazis in the ghetto in 1942, supplemented by outtakes which show how much of that was staged and manipulated to suit Nazi propaganda purposes. Narration and context comes from the diaries of the head of the Warsaw Ghetto Judenrat and others, a re-creation of an interview with one of the original German cameramen, the writer/director’s analysis, and the on-screen reactions of five Warsaw ghetto survivors viewing the footage.
In mid-August, an intergenerational group, including Holocaust survivors and descendants, from the Holocaust Council of MetroWest attended a preview screening of the film at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, followed by an illuminating discussion with director Yael Hersonski and Museum archivist Bonnie Gurewitsch. Even more enriching for us, however was the context provided by a Warsaw Ghetto survivor from our group who witnessed some of the actual filming.
She remembered the two children repeatedly shown walking with their arms around each other. They would walk past the building she and her family lived in, singing a song, begging for bread. She remembered another man who is shown dancing. He, too, was a fixture and sang as he danced, hoping someone would give him something to eat. Much of the film was very difficult viewing and she said she would probably not sleep that night.
The next morning she called a ghetto survivor friend in London to tell her about the film. She was in shock when the friend said, “You almost saw me.” She had been selected to be in one of the more harrowing scenes of women being herded into a mikva. Fortunately, a Jewish policeman recognized her and helped her escape that humiliation and probable death.
This troubling, thought-provoking film will open in Montclair on Sept. 24. More about the film can be found at www.afilmunfinished.com.
Member of the executive board, Holocaust Council of MetroWest
Chair, Generations of the Shoah-New Jersey