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“Shoah” director Claude Lanzmann dies at 92

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker and journalist Claude Lanzmann has died at his home in Paris, France at the age of 92. Lanzmann’s family confirmed his passing to Le Monde, though the cause ...
July 5, 2018

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker and journalist Claude Lanzmann has died at his home in Paris, France at the age of 92.

Lanzmann’s family confirmed his passing to Le Monde, though the cause has not been revealed.

Lanzmann was born in Paris in 1925 to Jewish parents who ventured to France from Eastern Europe. During his teens, he was a member of the French resistance and, for a time after the war, lived with famed writer/philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. Through de Beauvoir and acclaimed French author and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, Lanzmann was invited in 1945 to join the board of influential journal Les Temps Modernes. He would later become its chief editor.

Lanzmann’s passion for documentary grew out of his journalistic preoccupations, with his first film Pourquoi Israel? stemming from a series of interviews he conducted for a French television show. The project was released in 1973 and looked to examine life in Israel 25 years after the birth of the state.

The French filmmaker, however, is perhaps best known for his 1985 documentary film Shoah, a nine-and-a-half hour oral history of the Holocaust. The 550-minute feature took more than 11 years to make, as the director interviewed survivors, witnesses and perpetrators of the Holocaust. The film won various awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary Film.

In 1985, movie critic Roger Ebert described Shoah as “one of the noblest films ever made.”

Toronto-based filmmaker and former realscreen associate editor Adam Benzine chronicled Lanzmann’s journey on directing Shoah in his 2015 short, Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah. The 40-minute project went on to be shortlisted for an Academy Award in the Documentary Short Subject category.

Lanzmann, meanwhile, would go on to direct various other documentaries, including 1999′s A Visitor from the Living, a 65-minute film that featured the director in an interview with Maurice Rossel, a Swiss official of the Red Cross who wrote a glowing review of concentration camps during the Second World War.

While most of his body of work focused on the Holocaust, Lanzmann turned his focus to North Korea in his recent film. Napalm, which premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, provided insight into the reclusive country by drawing on his experience as a young journalist beginning in 1958. His most recent project, Les quatre soeurs (The Four Sisters), was a four-part series shot for ARTE focused on four female Holocaust survivors that was acquired for U.S. theatrical release by Cohen Media Group.

Lanzmann is survived by his third wife, Dominique, and his daughter Angelique. His son, Felix, died last year at the age of 23 from cancer.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news editor at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joined the RS team in 2015 with experience in journalism following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and with communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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