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Director Yael Hersonski’s trailblazing documentary A Film Unfinished deconstructs a Nazi-produced propaganda film about the Warsaw ghetto to expose the reality beneath its manufactured message. Discovered after the war, the unfinished film, which includes neither narration nor soundtrack, became a resource for historians seeking an authentic account of Jewish life in Poland just before the camps. Yet its scenes, produced in some cases in several takes, were carefully constructed to show the supposedly rich lives of ghetto residents. Juxtaposed against images of beggars, they depict an uncaring Jewish community deserving of extermination. Alongside images drawn from this 1942 footage, Hersonski uses the testimony of an SS cameraman as well as the pained reactions of elderly survivors of the ghetto as they watch the propaganda film. Each is observed as he or she sits alone in a darkened theater, allowing the filmmaker to capture instant, raw reactions. One survivor watches an elaborate “Jewish” funeral and cries out that Jews are not buried in coffins. Another holds her pained face in her hands as she watches images of people carelessly walking past corpses on the street, recounting how the Nazis instructed them to hold their heads high as they went by. To say this film hurts is an understatement. It aches.
At 2:30 p.m. at AFI Silver Theater 1; also on Sunday, June 27, at 4 p.m. Silver Theater 3.