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INDEPENDENT LENS: A Film Unfinished

Airs Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: A still showing Nazi filmmakers and Jews on the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto, from "A Film Unfinished." The footage, in which glimpses of the Nazi filmmakers can be seen when they accidentally step into each others’ shots, makes clear the great extent to which the Reich’s propagandists staged the scenes in the unfinished film that came to be known as “Das Ghetto.”

At the end of WWII, 60 minutes of raw film was discovered intact in an East German archive. Shot by the Nazis in Warsaw in May 1942, and labeled simply "Das Ghetto," this footage quickly became a resource for historians seeking an authentic record of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Talkback

"A Film Unfinished" shows how easily we can be taken in by a carefully crafted piece of “realist” propaganda like that produced by the Nazi propaganda machine. How much faith do you put in what your eyes — and the “experts” — tell you is true? Weigh in

In 1998, another reel was discovered that radically complicated the scholarly interpretation of “Das Ghetto.” The footage, in which glimpses of the Nazi filmmakers can be seen when they accidentally step into each others’ shots, makes clear the great extent to which the Reich’s propagandists staged the scenes in the unfinished film that came to be known as “Das Ghetto.”

"A Film Unfinished" presents the raw footage of the latter reel in its entirety, carefully noting fictionalized sequences (including a staged dinner party) falsely showing "the good life" enjoyed by Jewish urbanites. We also glimpse the filmmakers forcing some of the more prosperous Jewish inhabitants to ignore the corpses lying in the streets.

Without forcing any conclusions about what the object of the propaganda film, director Yael Hersonski offers insight into how what we believe to be definitive and historical is not always what it appears to be.

Video

Trailer: Independent Lens: A Film Unfinished

Watch the full episode. See more Independent Lens.

Above: This haunting film about a film examines a classic Nazi propaganda film used by historians for decades to provide insight into the realities of life in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. Visit pbs.org/independentlens/film-unfinished/ for more information about the film.

Video

Video Extra: A Film Unfinished: Secrets From The Cutting Room Floor

Watch the full episode. See more Independent Lens.

Above: Archivist Adrian Wood describes finding the outtakes from an infamous work of Nazi propaganda that clearly demonstrates the care the filmmakers took to create a false picture of life in the Warsaw Ghetto that would reinforce the official stereotypes and myths used to justify the brutal ethnic cleansing campaign against the Jewish people in Europe. For more information about "A Film Unfinished," visit pbs.org/independentlens/film-unfinished/

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