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Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week: 'Shoah'

January 6, 2011 |  8:30 am


The title "Shoah" comes from a passage in the Book of Isaiah, where the prophet proclaims, "There will come on you a catastrophe such as you have never known." That catastrophe was the Holocaust, and no film has ever done a more devastating job of capturing the enormity of that experience than this singular, nearly 10-hour documentary, showing over two days at the American Cinematheque's  Aero Theatre on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica in a new 35 mm print struck for its 25th anniversary.

French director Claude Lanzmann was adamant that his work, which took him six years to shoot in 14 countries and an additional five years to edit down from 350 hours of footage, was not a conventional documentary. "I think that the film, using only images of the present, evokes the past with far more force than any historical document," he said.

Lanzmann’s piercing interviews with both survivors and perpetrators are unforgettable, as are the scenes he shot at death camp sites with those who came out alive. "No one can describe it, recreate what happened here," says one survivor, returning to the site of the atrocities. "Even I, here, now." This film is as close as it gets. Part I is showing on Saturday, Jan. 8, at 5 p.m., Part II on Sunday, Jan. 9, at 3 p.m.

— Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Polish locomotive engineer Henrik Gawkowski is one of the subjects of Claude Lanzmann's epic documentary "Shoah."

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This movie sounds fantastic, however, in maybe ten or twenty years, "deniers" will say it was all false, with "actors" etc. The one thing they CANNOT deny is Stephen Spielberg's Shoa Foundation's "archive" of over 52,000 actual recordings from individual Holocaust survivors!! Actual addresses, etc. can be traced even, to prove they are true!!


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