A Film Unfinished: Yael Hersonski's Re-representation of archival footage from the Warsaw Ghetto.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    This article investigates strategies of re-presentation of archival official and amateur footage shot in 1942 in the Warsaw Ghetto in Yael Hersonski's A Film Unfinished. The re-use of historical footage in new contexts raises questions about its historicity, origin and intended meaning and it illustrates the malleability of the audio-visual record. The re-appropriation of footage from the Third Reich highlights this with particular acuity: Almost all of the surviving footage reflects the perspective of the perpetrators, yet this material has shaped our perception of the historical period.
    Yael Hersonki's re-representation combines this footage with the voice of those who controlled the Ghetto and those who stood behind the camera with that of the Ghetto inmates who recorded the filming they were subjected to. Her re-contextualisation of the material focuses on the ‘gaze’ and stance to which these pictures testify. However Hersonski’s filmic treatment also highlights instances of ‘excess’ in which the material yields a recalcitrance to its appropriation as propagandistic evidence. Hersonski therefore presents the footage in its inherent duality as iconic sign and trace but also as highly problematic record.
    At a juncture when our knowledge about this period in history is largely reliant on mediated evidence and as the digital turn of media history heralds a severing of the indexical link between historical reality and the visual record, Hersonski's film provides a critical reflection on the significance of archival records and the manner of our engagement with them.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)38-56
    Number of pages19
    JournalFilm Criticism
    Volume37
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013

    Keywords

    • archival footage
    • Warsaw

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