It’s not very often you come across a nine-hour documentary but that’s the case for Claude Lanzamann’s Shoah. That’s not the only lengthy fact about the documentary. It was 11 years in the making (1974-1985) and it recounts the story of the Holocaust through interviews with survivors, witnesses and perpetrators and footage of the death sites filmed at the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s.
In the director’s words, “Shoah is not a film about survival but a testimonial of death.” The International Literature Festival Berlin is organising a global event on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27). In Cyprus, the screening will take place on Sunday, January 26.
The documentary was hailed as an “epochal masterpiece of memory culture”, and as “an epic film about the greatest evil of modern times”. It received numerous nominations and awards at film festivals around the world including the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Non-Fiction Film and the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary.
Claude Lanzmann was one of the great French filmmakers and intellectuals. Born in Paris of Jewish parents, he joined the French resistance and went underground to fight the Nazis. Later, he studied philosophy in France and Germany and subsequently took a position as a lecturer at the Free University of Berlin in 1948/49.
In 1953, Lanzmann, who belonged to Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s intellectual circle, became a permanent collaborator on the legendary political and literary journal Les Temps Modernes.
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 defence force; and Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4pm (2001) about the prisoner uprising in the Sobibor death camp in 1943.
In 2013 Lanzmann received the Honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival. It was the first time that a documentary filmmaker received this honour from the Berlinale.
Screening his nine-hour-long film is no easy task so the organisers will split it up in four parts with three intervals. The day will begin at 2.30pm at ARTos Foundation in Nicosia and will end around 1am. Care to brave it?
9-hour documentary screening about the Holocaust. Directed by Claude Lanzamann. January 26. ARTos Foundation, Nicosia. 2.30pm-1am. Registration is mandatory. Tel: 99-678132