A Film Unfinished creates a dialogue about the plasticity of visual representation and its power for recording history over its predecessor; writing. Yael Hersonki, the director of the film, concludes, “Image unlike a document remains forever open for interpretation.”
An early example of recording history through the written word is a palimpsest manuscript; which is a repeatedly overwritten text where elements are rubbed out in order to be able to use the writing surface again. History is redefined and discovered through scientific restoration of the manuscripts. A Film Unfinished takes a similar investigative approach of refurbishing evidence from the past in an attempt to restore the lost layers of context within the Nazi’s unused footage of the Warsaw Ghetto.
The director has been quoted as saying, “Everything has context and when you give up the context there is only a superficial layer of understanding.” By layering the written word, eyewitness accounts and human emotion with the Nazi’s raw footage, A Film Unfinished proves the viewer’s gaze of empathy is grounded. The scenes in the film were staged and manipulated. Despite the Nazi’s best efforts of showing otherwise, the Jews were suffering and afraid. Perhaps this is why it was never used for its intended purpose of propaganda.
An Unfinished Film is a modern-day palimpsest of proof. Who is to say that it won’t be written over again?