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:A Film Unfinished

Director: Yael Hersonski

Production: Noemi Schory, Itay Ken-Tor- Belfilms Ltd.
Documentary | 89min  | Israel 2010 | Hebrew, German, Polish with English subtitles


This film seeks for the truth behind one of the most mysterious Nazi propaganda films ever shot inside the Warsaw Ghetto.

A rough draft of a silent film which juxtaposes meticulously staged scenes of Jews enjoying a life of luxury in the ghetto with other, chilling images that required no staging at all.

Ironically, after the war, filmmakers and museums used bits and pieces from the film as objective, general illustrations of the narratives collected from survivors and written documents.

Few people were aware of the cynical manner in which these images were created and the true, yet inconceivable witness they bear. The cinematic deception was forgotten and the black and white images remained engraved in memory as historical truth.

The film interweaves diary entries written by ghetto inhabitants during the filming, the testimonies of living survivors who still remember the filming, and for the first time a rare interrogation protocol of one of the German cameramen, testifying about his role in the making of the film.

By juxtaposing the filmed scenes with its behind-the-scenes' layered reality, 'A Film Unfinished' shakes our uncritical trust in the photographic image and the way we perceive the historical past.

Editor:                     Joëlle Alexis

DOP:                       Itai Neeman

Music:                    Ishai Adar

Sound Design:        Aviv Aldema

A production of:     Belfilms Ltd

Co-produced with:  MDR, SWR, Yes Docu

Supported by:         The New Israeli Foundation                                    for Cinema and Television,                                    Yad Vashem Film     

                               Project, YES Docu.


Best Editing Award -Sundance Film FestivalWGA Documentary Screenplay Award -Silverdocs Festival

 Best International Feature Award - Hot Docs 2010

 Shanghai TV Film Festival

 Berlin Film Festival

 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

 Van Leer Best Documentary Award and the Forum for the Preservation of Audio-Visual Memory Award- Jerusalem Film Festival

 The film was screened in dozens of film festival and territories as well as theatrical release and was nominated for the Emi award



Cinémathèque | Ville de Luxembourg, November 2011

Embassy of Israel in Dublin, November 2011

Exile Film Festival Greece, November 2011

Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival, November 2011

Moscow Israel Film Festival, September 2011

Holocaust Fund of Jews from Macedonia 2011

Rio De Janeiro Jewish Film Festival 2011
Sao Paulo Jewish Film Festival 2011
Holocaust Fund of Jews from Macedonia 2011
Bucharest Jewish Film Festival 2011
Makedox International Film Festival 2011
PKF Milano Film Festival 2011

Zagreb Jewish Film Festival 2011

IndieLisboa Film Festival 2011

Beldocs International Documentary Film Festival 2011

FIlm IsReal. Holland 2011
One World Film Festival, Romania, March 2011
Jewish Historical Museum- Holland, March 2011
One World Film Festival, Prague , March 2011

EDOC- Ecuador Documentary Film Festival 2011

Biblioteca di Storia Moderna e Contemporanea, Italy 2011
Academy of Film & Multimedia Marubi, Albania 2011
Copenhagen Jewish Film Festival 2011
Memorial de la Shoah, France 2011
This Human World,  Vienna 2011

Planete Doc Review 2010

Jerusalem Film Festival 2010

Melbourne International Film Festival

Bangkok International Film Festival 2010

Taiwan International Film Festival 2010

Saarbruken Israeli Film Festival 2010

UK Jewish Film Festival 2010 
Memorimage Barcelona 2010
Hong Kong Independent FF 2010
Verzio Intl. Human Rights Docs 2010
Belarusian Confederation of Creative Unions 2010
Filmoteca de Catalunya 2010
Pitigliano Rome Film Festival 2010
Rio International Film Festival 2010




The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of the Jewish ghettos during World War II. The

population was estimated to be 440,000 people. Thousands of Polish Jews as well as some 

Roma from the countryside were continuously brought into the Ghetto. Typhus, starvation, 

and random killings kept the number of inhabitants more or less constant. 

Average food rations in 1941 for Jews in Warsaw were limited to only 184 kcal per day. Thus 

over 100,000 of the Ghetto's residents died even before the Nazis began massive 

deportations of the inhabitants from the Ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp. 

Between July 23 and September 1942, about 254,000 of the Ghetto residents were sent to 

Treblinka and murdered there.

“CRITICS’ PICK! Moving, mysterious and intellectually provocative. A philosophical commentary on the way we view images…remarkable as much for its speculative restraint as for its philosophical reach. Ms. Hersonski creates a palimpsest of impressions from multiple, meticulously researched sources representing both victims and oppressors.
(The film) is really an exploration of watching – or more precisely, of the difference between watching and seeing. “
– Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times
Click here to read entire review

“Grade: A! Profound and vital. Haunting.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

“A meditation on the dual nature of film, on a ‘reality’ at once true and false, essential and tainted.”
– David Edelstein, New York magazine

“Thought-provoking. Remarkable. Fascinating.” – Lou Lumenick, New York Post

[four stars]
"Critics’ Pick! Hersonski shows us the four reels in the back-to-back entirety,
and builds a subdued aural-visual symphony around them. A brilliant reminder of the importance of bearing witness.”
– Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York

"Engages us, challenges us, and most importantly, teaches us -- not only about history, but about what we take for granted, and what we assume to be truth. A film that not only oozes a harsh reality never before seen, but also reveals the all-too-easy ‘cinematic deception’ of film, reminding us that image doesn't necessarily equal truth."
- Monika Bartyzel, Cinematical

“Gratifying in its ethical insistence that there are true things in the world, and that it is necessary for us to know them.”
– Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

"In hushed tones and with a steely sense-ordered methodology, A FILM UNFINISHED stands as a unique film-within-a-film, of significance for the historical value of the raw images, the memories they spur and internal evidence of how the Nazis staged scenes long assumed to be real."
– Todd McCarthy, Variety

"Required viewing." – Howard Feinstein, Screen Daily

"Harrowing. A historically invaluable doc." – John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

“Imagine a Nazi propaganda film so monstrous even a Nazi can’t stomach it.
That’s one possible and highly probable scenario suggested by Yael Hersonski’s remarkable Holocaust documentary.”
– Chris Chang, Film Comment




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