Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

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Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
Claude Lanzmann Spectres of the Shoah poster.png
Film poster
Directed byAdam Benzine
Produced by
  • Adam Benzine
  • Kimberley Warner
  • Nick Fraser
  • Halim Benzine
  • Kelsey Irvine
  • Alex Ordanis
StarringClaude Lanzmann
Music byJoel Goodman
Benjamin Krause
CinematographyAlex Ordanis
Edited byTiffany Beaudin
Distributed byHBO / Cinephil
Release date
  • April 25, 2015 (2015-04-25) (Hot Docs)
  • May 2, 2016 (2016-05-02) (HBO)
Running time
40 minutes
United States
United Kingdom

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah is a 2015 documentary-short film exploring the life and work of French director Claude Lanzmann. The film was written, directed, and produced by British filmmaker and journalist Adam Benzine.

Production background[edit]

The documentary explores the 12-year journey undertaken by Lanzmann to make his 1985 film Shoah, a nine-and-a-half-hour-long documentary about the Holocaust. In Spectres of the Shoah, Lanzmann details the practical and emotional challenges he faced from 1973–85, explaining his efforts to convince traumatized death camp survivors to recount their Second World War experiences; the dangers he faced in tracking down and secretly filming SS Officers illegally; his own teenage years spent fighting in the French Resistance; his romance with Simone de Beauvoir and friendship with Jean-Paul Sartre; as well as his difficulties in composing into a single cohesive narrative more than 200 hours of material he collected.[1]

In making the short documentary, Benzine and his team worked with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to secure a wide range of previously unseen outtake material, which was originally filmed during the making of Shoah, in order to help tell Lanzmann's personal story.[1]


Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah had its world premiere on April 25, 2015, almost 30 years to the day that Shoah was released,[2] at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto, Canada,[3] where it won an Honourable Mention in the Best Mid-Length Documentary Competition.[4]

During the festival, U.S. premium cable network HBO acquired the American TV rights to the film.[5] Sheffield Doc/Fest hosted the European Premiere of the film in June 2015,[6] and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival hosted the U.S. festival premiere for the film on July 28, at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.[7]

The film continued its festival run throughout the fall of 2015 with its London premiere at the UK Jewish Film Festival, and international screenings at the Camden International Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival, the Vienna International Film Festival, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, DOC NYC in New York, and IDFA in Amsterdam.

Franco-German broadcaster ARTE broadcast the doc on January 27, 2016, as did the CBC's Documentary Channel[8] in Canada and SVT in Sweden, while HBO broadcast the U.S. premiere of the film on May 2 of the same year.[5] Danish broadcaster DR, which along with ZDF/ARTE was an early investor in the film, will broadcast it in 2017.


The film has met with widespread critical acclaim as it has played at film festivals, theatrically and on television. The Toronto Star described the film as "a stunning revelation to both people who have seen Shoah and people who have not" in its Hot Docs review,[9] while the San Francisco Chronicle described it as "fascinating."[10] In a four-star review, NOW billed the film as "an essential supplement to one of the most important documentaries ever made,"[11] while The Globe and Mail rated the doc 3.5 out of 4, saying it was both "fascinating and upsetting."[12]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award / Event Date of ceremony Category Result
88th Academy Awards[13] 28 February 2016 Best Documentary Short Subject Nominated
38th Rockie Awards[14] 12 June 2017 Best History & Biography Program Nominated
Best Francophone Program Nominated
2017 Canadian Screen Awards[15] 7 March 2017 Best Direction in a Documentary Program Nominated
Best Picture Editing in a Documentary Program or Series Nominated
Best Original Music for a Non-Fiction Program or Series Nominated
Barbara Sears Award for Best Visual Research Nominated
2016 Canadian Cinema Editors Awards[16] 2 June 2016 Best Editing in Documentary - Short Form Won
9th Cinema Eye Honors[17] 13 January 2016 Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking Nominated
44th Grierson Awards[18] 7 November 2016 Best Newcomer Documentary Nominated
22nd Hot Docs Film Festival[19] 1 May 2015 Best Mid-Length Documentary Competition Honourable Mention
31st IDA Documentary Awards[20] 5 December 2015 Best Documentary Short Film Nominated
14th Warsaw Jewish Film Festival[21] 27 November 2016 Best Short Documentary Won
11th Los Angeles Italia Film Festival[22] 21 February 2016 Best Short Film of the Year Won
18th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival[23] 20 March 2016 Audience Award for Best International Short Documentary Won


  1. ^ a b Knellman, Martin (28 April 2015). "The man behind Shoah gets his close-up". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  2. ^ Thomas, Bob (3 June 1986). "EPIC FILM ON THE HOLOCAUST WAS FILMMAKER'S OBSESSION (AP)". Associated Press. Associated Press. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Hot Docs schedule - Lanzmann". Hot Docs. Hot Docs. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  4. ^ Punter, Jennie (1 May 2015). "Hot Docs award winners - Variety". Variety. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  5. ^ a b Vlessing, Etan (29 April 2015). "HBO Picks Up Doc About 'Shoah' Director Claude Lanzmann (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  6. ^ "Sheffield Doc/Fest - Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah". Sheffield Doc/Fest. Sheffield Doc/Fest. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  7. ^ "San Francisco Jewish Film Festival - Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah". San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  8. ^ "Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah - documentary Channel". Documentary Channel. CBC. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  9. ^ Knelman, Martin (28 April 2015). "The man behind Shoah gets his close-up". Toronto Star. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  10. ^ Hertz, Leba (19 July 2015). "Jewish Film Festival — 18 days, 4 venues, lots of history". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  11. ^ Wilner, Norman (22 April 2015). ">>> LANZMANN - NOW Toronto Magazine - Review ****". NOW Magazine. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  12. ^ Lederman, Marsha (17 April 2015). "Hot Docs 2015: What documentaries should you see at this year's fest?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  13. ^ "2015 Oscar Nominees". Academy Award. 16 January 2016.
  14. ^ Regan Reid (9 May 2017). "Canadians head to Rockie Awards with 40 noms". Playback Magazine.
  15. ^ Pat Mullen (17 January 2017). "Canadian Screen Award Documentary Nominees". POV Magazine.
  16. ^ "CFC ALUMNI CELEBRATED AT 2016 CCE AWARDS". Canadian Cinema Editors.
  17. ^ "'Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah' nominated for Outstanding Short". Cinema Eye Honors.
  18. ^ "The Grierson Awards - Nominees 2016". The Grierson Trust.
  19. ^ "Hot Docs 2015 Award Winners". Hot Docs 2015. 1 May 2015. Archived from the original on 19 October 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  20. ^ "31st Annual IDA Documentary Awards Nominees & Winners". International Documentary Association#IDA Documentary Awards. 5 December 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  21. ^ "THE 2016 CAMERA OF DAVID AWARDS". Warsaw Jewish Film Festival. 28 November 2016. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  22. ^ Ariston Anderson (21 February 2016). "Los Angeles Italia Fest to Honor Lady Gaga, Diane Warren". Los Angeles Italia film Festival. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  23. ^ Manori Ravindran (21 March 2016). "Thessaloniki, SXSW award doc prizes". Retrieved 21 March 2016.

External links[edit]