Claude Lanzmann's epic 1985 Holocaust documentary Shoahstands as neither film, nor art nor storytelling but, as critic Roger Ebert best called it, "an act of witness." The French director's effort at describing one of the most horrific periods of history is itself historic: more than nine hours long, 11 years in the making and devoid of even a single piece of archival footage or photograph. Instead, Lanzmann — a member of the French Resistance and editor of Les Temps Modernes, a journal founded by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir — traveled to 14 countries between 1974 and 1985 to focus solely on interviews with survivors of the concentration camps in Auschwitz, Treblinka and Chelmno; Polish villagers; and low-ranking Nazi officers, guards and bureaucrats, whom Lanzmann secretly filmed. Given its exhaustive length, the number of eye-witness accounts by survivors and bystanders in Shoah(Hebrew for catastrophe) is nearly outnumbered by the endlessly long and expansive shots of trains and quiet, idyllic fields that were once the site of millions of murders. The film also includes interviews with Raul Hilberg, author of the seminal book The Destruction of the European Jews, and Jan Karski, a Polish Resistance fighter and spy. In 2010, Lanzmann released The Karski Report, an unedited outtake of his interview with Karski, who, after attempting to notify Britain and Washington of the atrocities of the Warsaw ghetto and death camps was met without success, emerges as one of both the film's and the Holocaust's few heroes. The Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd. Wstwd.; Mon.-Tues., March 26-27, 7 p.m.; free. (310) 443-7000.
Mon., March 26, 7 p.m.; Tue., March 27, 7 p.m., 2012