Critical Filmmaker

Bringing War Documentaries to Life

Klaus Barbie Marcel Ophuls ddp
On set during the filming of Hotel Terminus.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • Marcel Ophuls, Germany’s prize-winning documentary filmmaker, has made several provocative films about World War II despite opposition.
  • Facts


    • Marcel Ophuls’ films include “The Troubles We’ve Seen” (1994), “Hotel Terminus” (1989) and “The House Next Door” (1969), “The Harvest of My Lai” and “November Days” and “The Sorrow and the Pity.”
    • Mr. Ophuls won an Oscar for his film “Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie.” in and last month was presented with the Golden Camera for his life’s work.
    • Mr. Ophuls was born in Germany in 1927, raised in France and the United States and returned to Europe to make documentary films.
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From Nazi criminals to the Vietnam war, Marcel Ophuls’ documentary films tackle some of the most difficult themes of the 20th century.

Mr. Ophuls, whose father, the German-Jewish filmmaker Max Ophüls, made movies about life and love, once said it would have been nice to have made some comedies.

There is little, if any, humor in many of the movies he has made. They reflect the turbulence of wars and their aftermath in the second half of the previous century.

His most critically acclaimed films include “The Harvest of My Lai” about the Viet Nam war, “November Days” about the fall of the Berlin wall  “The Troubles We’ve Seen” about war reporters.

Mr. Ophuls was born in Frankfurt and raised in Berlin. After the burning of the Reichstag in 1933, his family moved to Paris and then to Los Angeles. His father urged him to read Goethe to retain his German identity but at the same time to convert to Catholicism and take American citizenship.

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