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Claude Lanzmann: an extraordinary prize for an extraordinary man

“I’m a  world star now”, says Lanzmann.

The Berlinale made a Première this year in awarding the Honorary Golden Bear to a documentary film maker. And not to any, to the most recognized documentary film maker of our time, Claude Lanzmann, mostly known for his 12 year project of “Shoah”.

What did you feel when you heard you would get this prize? asked a journalist, the evening before the official ceremony.

“I was happy, surprised, then I was moved”, he kindly replied.

Claude Lanzmann with Gregor Ulrich

Claude Lanzmann with Gregor Ulrich

Claude Lanzmann was interviewed for over one hour at the Deutsche Filmhaus on Potsdamer Platz that night. The room was not large enough to accommodate all of those who had wished to see or hear him. The interviewer was Ulrich Gregor, someone Lanzmann already knew as he had invited him 27 years ago to present “Shoah” at the Berlinale.

During the long interesting dialogues during which Lanzmann explained about the making of “Shoah” and some of his other films, Gregor was eager to find out what was the difference between showing “Shoah” now and then. Quickly Lanzmann responded it is a complete different experience, not at all comparable.

“I am a star”, he murmured. Then, adding while smiling “I am a world star now”.

Since his presence at the Berlin film festival in the 1980’s for the Première of “Shoah”, Claude Lanzmann has returned numerous times for the screenings of “Tsahal”, “Un vivant qui passe” and “Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943 16 heures”, the film shown this year at the homage ceremony. “Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943 16 heures” is a film about a Jewish uprising at the extermination camp of Sobibor in 1943 retold by a survivor, Yehuda Lerner. While it is a film about a “Jew killing a German”, the film ends with Claude Lanzmann reading the list of transports to Sobibor and other camps, where 250,000 people were exterminated.

Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943, 16 heures  Sobibor, 14. Oktober 1943, 16 Uhr Homage 2013 Berlinale FRA 2001 director Claude Lanzmann - Yehuda Lerner

Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943, 16 heures Sobibor, 14. Oktober 1943, 16 Uhr Homage 2013 Berlinale FRA 2001 director Claude Lanzmann – Yehuda Lerner

Showing the film “is a great idea”, he shared during the interview and again the next day during the ceremony. He used the words “fair”, “full of panache” and applauds the one who took the decision to show it.

It did not take a long time for Claude Lanzmann, who had arrived happy on the red carpet to become emotional while watching the retrospective about his life. Tears started running on his face, but he quickly found some strength back to receive his well-deserved bear.

“I love bears, all kind of bears”, he enjoyed saying during his long thankful speech.

So many people were thanked like the Ambassador of France in Germany, the Ambassador of Israel in France, the editor of his book “The Patagonian Hare”, the editors of his films, his friends, secretaries, assistants and his son Félix, who accompanied him to Berlin.

Claude Lanzmann mentioned the President of France, Francois Hollande, and the beautiful personal letter he received from him and the one he addressed to Dieter Kosslick, the President of the Berlinale. Kosslick was thanked by Francois Hollande for his tribute to Lanzmann and giving him an Honorary Golden Bear award.

“Honorary or not, it is the same for me”, confessed Lanzmann, all formerly dressed with a black tuxedo.

After receiving his prize, he caressed it with both checks after looking at it once. Then, he stared at it once more, looked at all sides, weighed it and remarked smiling with a French accent “it is heavy…it is pure gold!”, before thanking the audience for the extraordinary five minute long and warm standing ovation.

Claude Lanzmann in Berlin

Claude Lanzmann in Berlin

Lanzmann, who stayed during the entire screening of “Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943 16 heures”, didn’t leave without saying a few words about his new film “Dernier des injustes”.” It “deserves a lot of gold too”, he went on joking.

The audience loved it and laughed!

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