How do you look interrogating and frightening

Ghetto film is a secret

Rainer Rother

The film scholar Dr. Rainer Rother has been Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kinemathek and head of the Berlinale retrospective since 2006. Before that, Rainer Rother was head of the cinematheque of the German Historical Museum in Berlin from 1991 to 2006. The film expert is the author and publisher of numerous publications on topics from film and media history, including: Rainer Rother and Judith Prokasky (eds.): The camera as a weapon: Propaganda images of the Second World War, Edition Text and Criticism, Munich, 2010. As well as: Rainer Rother, Leni Riefenstahl - The seduction of talent, Henschel Verlag, Berlin, 2000.

Subtitle: A commentary on Yael Hersonski's film "The secret thing about ghetto film"

The film "Ghetto Film, a secret matter" received international praise from numerous media, and the work has also received several awards. At the same time there was also criticism of the film. The dossier offers two comments on the film in order to enable a comprehensive examination of the work "The secret issue of ghetto film" and to depict the discussion in its entirety. The media scientist Rainer Rother and the historian Dirk Rupnow come to very opposing assessments of the film.
Aliza Vitis-Shomron (pictured) survived the Warsaw ghetto. You and three other contemporary witnesses looked at the recordings from the Warsaw Ghetto from 1942. Yael Hersonski captured the reactions of the survivors for her film "Geheimsache Ghettofilm" (& copy Belfilms, camera: Itai Neeman and Yossi Aviram)

Rainer Rother sees Hersonski's work as the re-reading of the recordings in the Warsaw Ghetto from 1942. She made these recordings the material of a filmic investigation. For this, the director chose new perspectives, such as the commentary on the film material by contemporary witnesses. "The secret thing about ghetto film" provided a definite change in attitudes towards those pictures from 1942, according to Rother.

Any use of film images that were created during National Socialism and on behalf of the National Socialists raises the problem that this "material" is anything but neutral. In many ways it is charged with meaning, shaped in a specific way, by no means a simple document.

For directors who used the material from the Warsaw Ghetto from May 1942 in the Federal Archives, the question was whether with the context created in their own work, the new montage, with commentary and underlaid soundtrack, the images from National Socialist A meaning could be wrested from production that was not intended in the original context of the cinematic strategies used (choice of take, montage, commentary, etc.). Finally, whether these images of the perpetrators could be made legible in a way that does not once again subject the depicted victims to stereotypical and inflammatory ascriptions.

The 2010 film by Yael Hersonski "Shtikat Haarchion" (original Hebrew title, the German title is "Geheimsache Ghettofilm", the American "A Film Unfinished") chooses one completely in view of the images from the "Ghetto" film [1] different perspective than has been taken so far. She does not use the material as evidence of the crimes of the National Socialists, but questions it about the filmic propaganda and possible traces of this unformed or deformed reality.

The first screenings of the film took place in the program of international festivals - first in January 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival, then in February at the Berlin International Film Festival, in the "Panorama" section. The special thing about this film was recognized by the film critics, as the New York Times wrote: "The director Yael Hersonski, using generous clips from the Nazi movie and excerpts from diaries written by ghetto inhabitants, illustrates how the original footage was carefully staged, as evident by multiple takes of some scenes. In one section a healthy-looking woman walks past two pitiful waifs with apparent indifference, and then she does so again. "[2]

Some prizes accompany the film's festival career. At the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, editor Joƫlle Alexis was awarded the prize for best editing in the "World Cinema Documentary Editing Award" category. Also in 2010, Yael Hersonski received the "Best International Feature Award" from the International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto and the Writers Guild of America presented the director with the "Silverdocs Documentary Screenplay Award". After invitations to festivals followed theatrical releases in the USA (August 18, 2010) and Great Britain (October 30, 2010) [3], television broadcasts for example on Arte in December 2010 and later on MDR, SWR and others, and finally the release on DVD among others in the USA (March 2011), Germany (May 2011) and Great Britain (November 2011).

"I was interested in the essence of reality in these pictures"

Yael Hersonski came across the "Ghetto" material by chance, but with a specific interest. "I was looking for an example of existing footage because I had a project in mind in which I wanted to analyze and review found footage in a new way," says Hersonski. [4] Her initial impulse was cinematographically rather than historically inspired and she stayed true to it. In fact, Hersonski's film stands in the tradition of films that analyze "found footage" (roughly "found material", describes the film genre that works with existing material from other filmmakers) in terms of origin and aesthetic qualities, including in the follow-up to essay films, in which found images, photos or moving images become the source material.

She was then referred to the film or the material from 1942 by the producer Noemi Schory. "I was electrified by it. Something about the filmmaking itself dismayed me; it wasn't just putting the camera on a tripod and then starting to shoot. A cinematic conception was visible, a concept like close-ups, Long shots and how the cut was used. "

This material provoked questions, especially about the boundary between documentary and fiction. "I was interested in the essence of reality in these pictures. For example: the gaze of the people being filmed. So often they look into the camera. And they were told how to behave, what to do. But still: These pictures show that there is something else, something that belongs to them alone. " In other words: Where traditionally compilations since the first works of this genre (like Esfir Shub's "Padenije dinastii Romanowych" - German title "Der Fall der Dynastie Romanow", SU 1927, or Leo Lasko's two-part "The World War", D 1926/27) dem Gave a different meaning to material, Heronski looks for "real" characters that were reflected in the settings contrary to the intentions of National Socialist production. And it makes the staging, in which the pictures were supposedly given a clear meaning in 1942, understandable again.

Your subject is therefore primarily the film - or the unfinished material - from 1942. The first commentary sentences in "The Ghetto Film" read: "This is the story of a film that was never completed. A film that the third party Reich should serve as propaganda material. " Based on the questions posed to this film, the director reveals the presumed intentions of the filmmakers who were operating in the ghetto at the time, as well as their view of the prisoners there. Hersonski examined the material.

Hersonski's film is an essay on the expressiveness of propagandistic film images, insofar as it is not a film about a historical event. Its structure already relies on cinematic signs, namely starting tape markings that identify the beginning of each film roll. [5] Hersonski's work exhibits cinematic processes, so to speak, with the consequence that they are neither considered unreflected nor used. The film "reads" material that has been handed down and the audience's appropriate reception for it is also the "reading".