HBO Buys Rights to Film About Holocaust Documentary Maker Claude Lanzmann

The film portrays Lanzmann's 12-year ordeal in producing his epic film 'Shoah,' which nearly drove him to suicide.

Emil Salman

HBO Documentary Films has bought the American television rights to "Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah," according to the Hollywood Reporter. The film is a portrait of the French director who is best known for his monumental nine and a half hour 1985 Holocaust documentary "Shoah."

The new movie portrait of Lanzmann, which was produced, directed and written by Toronto-based director Adam Benzine, is to air on HBO next year, possibly on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Reporter said. It traces what the Reporter described as Lanzmann's "harrowing artistic journey" between 1973 and 1985 in making "Shoah."

"One of the things that struck me is 'Shoah' was never nominated for an Oscar. It's a grave injustice. It's the most important documentary ever made and certainly the most important Holocaust film," Benzine told the Reporter. "Shoah is certainly not a feel-good film, Benzine added. "That's the point."

The Hollywood Reporter noted that Lanzmann's film was groundbreaking in not using archival footage about the Holocaust filmed during World War II itself. Instead it features footage shot 40 years after the war as well as interviews that Lanzmann conducted with Jewish survivors, German perpetrators and Polish bystanders.

"Shoah" was edited from 225 hours of film footage, the Reporter noted, adding that Benzine's film captures what the Reporter called "the personal toll that the epic project took on Lanzmann, who is interviewed extensively. That hardship included financial difficulties the filmmaker faced while completing 'Shoah,' his painstaking work to convince Holocaust survivors to talk on screen, and the filmmaker enduring a severe beating at the hands of former Nazis during secret undercover filming." Benzine's film also portrays how making "Shoah" almost drove Lanzmann to suicide.

French, German and Danish broadcast rights have also reportedly been acquired fpr Benzine's portrait of Lanzmann.