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Shoah by Claude Lanzmann (1985) is Lanzmann’s most renowned work in the film industry. Being a documentary filmmaker, Lanzmann has always ensured that his films tell the wholesome truth instead of just documenting events and recounts. Unlike some of his early and recent works like Israel,Why? (1973) and The Karski Report (2010), Lanzmann had the mindset of getting the interviewees to recount what had been done in Shoah (the actual event).

Not surprisingly, when the certain parts of Shoah were first aired in Poland, it sparked controversies where Lanzmann was condemned as anti-Polish and his one-sided account on the event itself. This is probably mentioned as it was shown in the documentary film itself, where he classified the interviewees according to ‘Survivors’, ‘Bystanders’ and ‘Perpetrators’. Just so you know, all bystanders in the films were Polish. He was accused of demoralising Poland as he portrayed the people in a negative manner where they were said to be antisemitic since they didn’t feel the need to help.

Lanzmann’s way of interviewing is indeed quite pressurising as there was this part where an interviewee couldn’t continue to stay through the interview. Lanzmann forces him to continue as he wanted every survivor, every witness of the Holocaust to tell the story. Underhand means had be done by him but it was an understandable method since he wanted his audience to know more about the Holocaust itself.

A particular interview where an interview was done, an unnamed  non-Jewish Polish peasant made a striking comment where he said, ‘Let me put it this way. When you cut your finger, does it hurt me?’ answering the part where he was asked for his concern for the Jews.

The poster person for the film poster, Pan Falborski, did redeem Lanzmann’s so-called sentiments and accusation on Poland as he showed the interviewee recalling the past of how they would try to help the Jews. It was an intended part on Lanzmann as he knew that is how the human nature works where people would tend to help out one another.

After watching this -long and draggy- documentary film by Claude Lanzmann, I must say that being a total fool on the Holocaust and any other historical events, it shed some light on me when I realised how painful and atrocious  the Holocaust was. I have to admit that 10 hours for a documentary film , I fell asleep watching the film after the fourth hour mark. I had to rewatch it a numerous times because the film was too energy-draining.

Despite all that, I have to applaud  – let’s clap now – Lanzmann’s efforts to show the wholesome truth of the Holocaust. First of all, after researching on the event itself and watching the film , I dropped a few tears or so; as the emotional and physical scars on the survivors are just too overwhelming.

Roger Ebert (2010) made this statement. ‘There is no proper response to this film. It is an enormous fact, a 550-minute howl of pain and anger in the face of genocide. It is one of the noblest films ever made.’ I somehow agree with this as the film triggers so many emotions that you can’t make a stand out of it.

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I made a drawing as a homage to Claude Lanzmann himself. The drawing depicts Lanzmann recounting the filming in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The documentary film reflects his feelings, his sentiments to the Holocaust and I felt that this drawing captures that essence – hopefully it does – , and I think the film itself, is not just a great documentary on the Holocaust, but it documents Lanzmann’s efforts and hardwork behind the scene.

About the author: Jasper Yeo loves to ‘cook up’ stories and of course ,food. He also loves to draw and his dream job is to be a writer or a chef.


En.wikipedia.org. 1985. Shoah (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoah_(film) [Accessed: 20 Jun 2013].

the Guardian. 2011. Claude Lanzmann on why Holocaust documentary Shoah still matters. [online] Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/jun/09/claude-lanzmann-shoah-holocaust-documentary [Accessed: 20 Jun 2013].

Ebert, R. 2010. Shoah Movie Review & Film Summary (1985) | Roger Ebert. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-shoah-1985 [Accessed: 20 Jun 2013].

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