Claude Lanzmann, the French documentary film-maker behind Shoah, is to be awarded the Honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.

The Berlinale will pay tribute to Lanzmann at an award ceremony in February, which will include a screening of Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943, 16 heures.

In addition, the festival will screen his complete body of work in a dedicated Homage programme, which will feature the debut screening of the restored and digitized version of Shoah.

The nine-and-a-half hour documentary on the genocide of European Jews was screened in the Berlinale Forum in 1986 and received numerous international awards. The preparation and film work for Shoah lasted nearly 12 years.

In the film, Lanzmann shows interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Shoah, including perpetrators, and visits sites of extermination to shine the spotlight on the Nazi genocide.

Born in Paris in 1925 to Jewish parents, Lanzmann fought in the Résistance, studied philosophy in France and Germany, and held a lectureship at the then newly founded Freie Universität Berlin in 1948/49. He was an active supporter of the Algerian independence movement in the early 1960s.

His exploration of the Shoah, anti-semitism and political struggles for freedom are seen in both his cinematic and journalistic work.

Lanzmann worked primarily as a journalist until the early 1970s, and remains the publisher of the magazine “Les Temps Modernes”, founded by Jean-Paul Sartre. During the 1960s he belonged to the circle of intellectuals surrounding Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

His first cinematic work was made in 1972, the documentaryPourquoi Israël (Israel, Why; France 1973), in which he illustrates the necessity of Israel’s founding from the Jewish perspective.

In the film Tsahal, which screened in the 1995 Berlinale, he focuses on women and men who serve in the Israeli Army.

Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943, 16 heures (France 2001), about the 1943 revolt in the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland, was also screened in the Berlinale, in 2002.

Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick said: “Claude Lanzmann is one of the great documentarians.

“With his depictions of inhumanity and violence, of anti-semitism and its consequences, he created a new kind of cinematic and ethical exploration. We are honoured to honour him.”

Films in the Homage include:

  • Pourquoi Israël (Israel, Why; France 1973)
  • Shoah (France 1985)
  • Tsahal (France/Germany 1994)
  • Un vivant qui passe (A Visitor from the Living; France 1997)
  • Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943, 16 heures (France 2001)
  • Le rapport Karski (The Karski Report; France 2010)