The documentary filmmaker Claude Lanzmann died last Thursday at the Saint-Antoine Hospital in Paris at the age of 92. He was best known as the director of the monumental work SHOAH, which John Pym called “a devastating and cautionary interrogation of the Holocaust through the testimony of both survivors and ‘functionaries’” in his original 1985 feature analysis of the film in Sight & Sound. His full and robust life story can not be summed up here, but a handful of elegant and thoughtful obituaries and memorials were published over the past few days by Daniel Lewis of The New York Times, Richard Brody in The New Yorker, Glenn Kenny at RogerEbert.com, AV Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, and Leslie Camhi of Vogue, who articulately summed up Lanzmann’s legacy and personality, “The fact that he was in love with life, and obsessed with death was only the most obvious of his many contradictions. He was deeply Jewish, and profoundly secular. He worked with the past but was relentlessly engaged with the present. A sometimes violent polemicist, he could also be very funny. He was the only man Simone de Beauvoir ever lived with, during the course of their nine-year love affair and the friendship that continued until her death in 1986. But he was, I believe it is safe to say, no feminist; he was known to share the alarming machismo of his generation. He believed in liberty.” In celebration of Lanzmann’s work, Film Comment reposted a conversation from 2015 between film critic J. Hoberman and filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer in which they dissect the lasting impact of SHOAH on the Film Comment Podcast.
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) launched on Thursday, Sept. 5 and distributors were moving with alacrity to nab titles, with many picking up distro rights before the festival even launched. Realscreen’s Adam Benzine spoke with TIFF programmer (and Stranger Than Fiction Artistic Director) Thom Powers about several of the deals secured by films premiering at the festival. However, Benzine reported that Ron Howard’s Jay-Z concert doc MADE IN AMERICA had found an international rights sales agent in The Exchange. Realscreen colleague Kevin Ritchie had the news that the UK’s Dogwoof had acquired international rights for DANGEROUS ACTS STARRING UNSTABLE ELEMENTS OF BELARUS. Gregg Kilday of The Hollywood Reporter reported that HBO had nabbed U.S. television rights for the film.
At the What (Not) to Doc blog, Basil Tsiokos offered an overview of docs screening at TIFF. The Hollywood Reporter also shared a post on five must-see films screening at the festival. Writing for the POV blog, Tom Roston interviewed Thom Powers about certain festival selections. Back at Realscreen, Adam Benzine had the opportunity to speak with director Claude Lanzmann.
The folks behind the blog Film School Rejects this week launched a new site dedicated to nonfiction entertainment titled Nonfics.com and headed by former Documentary Channel blog editor Christopher Campbell. Campbell’s prodigious output has yielded too many posts to link individually, but you can check out his editor’s welcome here, as well as a list of 10 TIFF selections Campbell was excited to see. Campbell also wrote up an interview with TIFF sensation TIM’S VERMEER subject Tim Jenison, and penned a piece about the phenomenon of spoilers potentially ruining documentaries. Robert Greene also wrote the first of a series, Shots From the Canon, as part of efforts to identify a new nonfiction canon.