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'Shoah' Director Claude Lanzmann to Receive Berlinale Golden Bear

Claude Lanzmann - P 2012
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The ground-breaking Holocaust documentary screened at the Berlin Film Festival in 1986.

COLOGNE, Germany – French filmmaker and producer Claude Lanzmann, whose groundbreaking documentary Shoah is considered one of the greatest films ever made about the Holocaust, will be honored at next year's Berlin International Film Festival with a lifetime achievement honor, the Berlinale Golden Bear.

“Claude Lanzmann is one of the great documentarists. With his depictions of inhumanity and violence, of antisemitism and its consequences, he created a new kind of cinematic and ethical exploration,” said Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick. “We feel honored to honor him.”

Shoah, a nine-and-a-half hour documentary, was groundbreaking in that it used no archival footage, being composed  primarily of interviews with Holocaust survivors and visits to concentration camp sites. The film screened in the Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival in 1986, where it won the Caligari film prize and the FIPRESCI film critics honor. Shoah went on to win numerous other accolades, including the Flaherty Documentary Award at the BAFTAs and best documentary honors from the National Film Critics Association.

As with all his work, Shoah was a very personal project for Lanzmann. Born in Paris in 1925 to Jewish parents, he joined the French resistance and fought the Nazi occupation. Later, Lanzmann studied philosophy in both France and Germany. In 1948/49 he held a lectureship position at the Free University of Berlin. The Holocaust, anti-Semitism and the struggle for human rights have been at the core of his work both as a filmmaker and journalist.

Among his best-known films are Israel, Why (1973), about the necessity of the founding of Israel after the Second World War; Tsahal (1994), a close examination of the Israeli defense force; and Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 PM (2001) about the prisoner uprising in the Sobibor death camp in 1943.

The Berlinale will have a special screening of Sobibor following Lanzmann's Golden Bear award ceremony. Berlin will also pay tribute to the French director during the festival with an homage of all his feature length documentaries.

The 63rd Berlin International Film Festival runs Feb. 7-17, 2013.