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A Film Unfinished: Probing the propaganda

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The title A Film Unfinished refers to The Ghetto, a 1942 documentary made by the Nazis in which it's revealed that many Jews managed to prosper in the Warsaw slums while cruelly ignoring the plight of their fellow countrymen, who were starving — and dying — just yards away. Shelved and then rediscovered at the end of World War II, the hour-long film became accepted as a historical document that was occasionally screened over the ensuing decades.

It wasn't until 1998, when a British film researcher stumbled across 30 minutes of outtakes, that it became clear — as if there wasn't already doubt — that this was purely a German propaganda piece, with all scenes involving affluent Jews living in spacious apartments and eating hearty meals having been staged, Andrew Breitbart-style, by the Nazis for the sole purpose of propping up outrageous falsehoods designed to further malign an oppressed people.

Director Yael Hersonski not only includes footage from both the original film and the outtakes but also adds diary reflections from a Jewish leader in the ghetto (he eventually committed suicide) and testimony from one of the cameramen of the damning footage. Perhaps most affecting, however, are the present-day reactions of five survivors who were there in Warsaw when the propaganda piece was being made. Interviewed as they watch the images in horror, they allow us to realize that A Film Unfinished also refers to Hersonski's own picture, part of a continuing saga that will never be finished as long as there are more Holocaust stories to expose.

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