Alexander Nanau, the Romanian director of Collective which is heading into the Oscars with both best documentary and best international feature nominations, is set to executive produce the newly-announced feature doc Klarsfeld, about French Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld.
The film, which Fremantle has also acquired for international distribution, is being directed by Mike Lerner and Martin Herring, the acclaimed filmmakers behind Oscar-nominated docs including The Square and Hell and Back and Again, for Roast Beef Productions.
For more than half a century, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld have hunted, confronted, and exposed Nazi war criminals, tracking them down in places as far-flung as South America and the Middle East. Now in their 80s they still continue their activism against today’s new Nazis and far right extremists.
The film is set to weave the couple’s past with their present day struggles against the forces of modern fascism. Peppered with personal testimonies from presidents (including Emmanuel Macron) to Holocaust survivors, fellow activists and friends and family members – all will contribute to the telling of this remarkable yet under-appreciated story. The film is also the story of a love affair between Beate and Serge; hunting partners, fellow activists, husband and wife and parents, revealing both their courageous work and their enduring love.
“It has been a huge privilege to have gained the trust and cooperation of Beate and Serge to document their extraordinary lives both past and present,” said Lerner, who has been filming the couple for several years.
“For more than half a century, the Klarsfelds have been a huge inspiration and role models for those activists who seek justice and oppose fascism and yet their story has been under appreciated by the wider world. Until now. We are delighted to be partnering with Fremantle to bring these historic achievements to the screen.”
Among those to have been brought to justice via the actions of the Klarsfelds was Klaus Barbie, the notorious Nazi and Gestapo chief in France who became known as the “Butcher of Lyon”. Barbie, who personally participated in the torture of adults and children, is estimated to have been directly responsible for the deaths of up to 14,000 people, yet after the war was recruited by the CIA and later moved to Bolivia under a different name. However, he was identified by the Klarsfelds, eventually extradited to France and in 1987 was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes.
“Basically, I was taken by the actuality of what this couple did,” Nanau told The Hollywood Reporter about boarding the film. “Because it feels that this is exactly the kind of attitude and behaviour one feels we need now in a world of so much populism and hidden agendas. And I thought that they were really among the first major whistleblowers of the post-war European society.”
Klarsfeld is currently in post-production and due for launch at the end of 2021.
“Fremantle are determined to work with the best documentary makers around the world, so we are terrifically excited to partner with the combined creative talents of the Roast Beef Productions team to share this incredible film,” said Angela Neillis, Fremantle’s senior vp of non-scripted content, international. “The Klarsfeld documentary is a hugely relevant story, encompassing history, activism and love. We are confident this will be a captivating film for audiences worldwide.”