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A Film Unfinished
  • 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
  • Interview with author and film researcher Adrian Wood
  • Scholar Michael Berenbaum on A Film Unfinished
  • Death Mills (1945): A short film by Billy Wilder, includes some of the first footage shot from within concentration camps post-liberation
  • Study Guide: For educators and students to gain a deeper understanding of the themes and lessons in the film

A Film Unfinished

Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Yael Hersonski
2010 | 90 Minutes

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.99 | Series: Oscilloscope Laboratories | Edition: #25
Oscilloscope Laboratories

Release Date: March 8, 2011
Review Date: March 3, 2011

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At the end of WWII, 60 minutes of raw film, having sat undisturbed in an East German archive, was discovered. Shot by the Nazis in Warsaw in May 1942, and labeled simply "Ghetto," this footage quickly became a resource for historians seeking an authentic record of the Warsaw Ghetto. However, the later discovery of a long-missing reel complicated earlier readings of the footage. A FILM UNFINISHED presents the raw footage in its entirety, carefully noting fictionalized sequences (including a staged dinner party) falsely showing "the good life" enjoyed by Jewish urbanites, and probes deep into the making of a now-infamous Nazi propaganda film.

A FILM UNFINISHED is a film of enormous import, documenting some of the worst horrors of our time and exposing the efforts of its perpetrators to propel their agenda and cast it in a favorable light.

Discuss the film and DVD here   


Yael Heronskiís A Film Unfinished comes to DVD from Oscilloscope Laboratories on a dual-layer DVD. The film is technically presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1óenhanced for widescreen televisionsóthough the majority of the film, which presents footage shot in the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazi, is presented in a ratio of about 1.33:1 with black bars on the side of the screen.

The image is a hard one to rank considering the nature of the film, but when push comes to shove the actual digital transfer found here is very strong. As I mentioned previously a good chunk of the film is made up of deteriorated black and white footage filmed by the Nazis during the latter part of WWII and the transfer presents it naturally with no artifacts and strong gray levels. This footage is edited in with footage of minor reenactments and holocaust survivors watching the film. Upscaled it looks fairly amazing and at times I actually forgot I was watching a DVD. Artifacts arenít noticeable and I didnít notice any significant problems.

The newer footage looks to be digital so it presents no problems in the source. I feel itís kind of pointless to even talk about the footage from the Nazi film but since it makes up a majority of this documentary I will mention that even though it has its issues with damage including marks, scratches and chemical stains, itís held up pretty well over all and Iíll leave that up to you as to whether thatís a good thing or not

In all, despite the nature and limitations of the film the digital transfer comes off looking rather stunning. An impressive presentation.


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The film comes with a simple stereo track that is clear and clean, presenting sharp music and clear dialogue, suiting the nature of the film perfectly.



The disc comes with a few supplements starting with a 15-minute interview with Adrian Wood, a scholar who has been looking through archives of footage shot by the Nazis over decades by the sounds of it and here he talks about finding the footage used for A Film Unfinished and sharing stories behind them. Wood is incredibly dry but he has some interesting stories and his observations about this type of footage and the differences between actual documentaries and propaganda and the very fine line between them are welcome insights.

The next interview is short, not even 4-minutes, featuring Michael Berenbaum on A Film Unfinished and its importance, specifically the fact it has survivors watching the unfinished Nazi propaganda film and recalling their memories (there are quite a few moments in the film where survivors see someone they recognize and talk about them.) Not sure if it was a necessary inclusion but here it is for those concerned.

The final feature on here is possibly the hardest one to get through, yet itís a strong inclusion. Oscilloscope Laboratories include a film made for the U.S. War Department in 1945 by Billy Wilder, called Death Mills, documenting the Allied forces liberating the concentration camps at the end of WWII, and recording the gruesome discoveries they made. Itís only 21-minutes but it may be one of the rougher 21-minutes Iíve ever had to sit through. It shows the liberation of the camps and the horrifying conditions of the survivors but then moves on to the ďhorrors hard to believeĒ that awaited the Allies. Thereís footage of the torture chambers, the ovens, and the gas chambers, and thereís also recreations of a couple of the torture techniques the Nazis used on their prisoners. But what will be gut-wrenching to most viewers is the endless footage of bodies piled up everywhere in these camps, and you can see the horror and sheer disbelief on the faces of the officers touring the facilities. It was hard to watch and Wilder doesnít make it easy, as he shouldnít, but I must admit that the temptation to turn it off was there. The final portion is pretty powerful, where he next presents footage of German citizens being forced to walk to the camps to see what their leaders had been doing. Footage capturing the journey there shows people smiling, enjoying the day, and having a decent time. This of course all changes once everyone sees just what awaits them at the camps. Iím happy with its inclusion but itís definitely not something thatís going to be easy to watch as it is incredibly graphic and doesnít pull any punches in the least.

In an interesting inclusion, Oscilloscope Labs includes a Study Guide on a PDF file on the disc that you can access through your computer. Itís a 12-page guide aimed at educators, presenting a few essays, some resources, and topics for discussion. Though itís an excellent teaching resource, everyone else who isnít an educator will still find some interesting material in here.

Finally there is a short essay on A Film Unfinished by Annette Insdorf found printed inside the set.

Not packed but the supplements are effective.



An excellent documentary receives a rather surprising DVD presentation, presenting a sharp and pleasing transfer. Though the supplements are slim, the inclusion of Wilderís Death Mills was a thoughtful and excellent inclusion. The release coms highly recommended.


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