Claude Lanzmann’s Cinema of Remembrance

Some filmmakers change cinema, others change consciousness. Claude Lanzmann made an impact on both. Lanzmann’s death this past July at age 92 leaves us his cinematic legacy as historian, keeper of the flame, educator, and—of paramount importance in these times—a truth-teller who exhorted others to do likewise. Born in France to immigrant Jewish parents, he and other members of his family fought in the Resistance during World War II; at age 18, he was smuggling arms. After the war, he became a journalist, professor, and writer who loomed large in France as a leftist intellectual. A number of his articles monitored the covert persistence of Nazism in Germany; the war may have been over, but he knew that vigilance must always be maintained. In his late 40s, he made his first documentary; the following decade would be consumed by work on his second, Shoah. The title is the Hebrew word for disaster or catastrophe, which Lanzmann felt better described “a crime that is without precedent in the history of humanity” than the phrase “the Holocaust.” The movie’s reception and impact went far beyond what any documentary filmmaker could have hoped for. All too aware that there was more to be done in the face of indifference and/or misinformation, Lanzmann persevered in his life’s work and continued for decades to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about 20th-century Jewish experience as well as the art of documentary.

The final film by Claude Lanzmann, Shoah: Four Sisters, opens at the Quad November 14. Click here for more details.

Past Screenings